ANEROID, Sask. — A mother says her toddler is tired, a little scratched up and sunburned but otherwise fine after he spent a night in a muddy trench in southwestern Saskatchewan.
Keeley Moat and her family from Edmonton were visiting an aunt’s farm near Aneroid on Monday when Moat’s two-year-old son, Courtlund Barrington-Moss, wandered off.
She said she and her relatives looked in places Courtlund had been playing earlier and became more frantic when he didn’t turn up. Her aunt called the RCMP.
Moat says it was a long night.
“But at the same time it felt like the time was going by quick because we weren’t finding him,” she said in a telephone interview. ”I was getting more and more anxious.”
Shelby Layman, the deputy fire chief in nearby Ponteix, said some 60 volunteers searched overnight with the help of sniffer dogs, a helicopter, night-vision goggles, a drone and high-capacity spotlights.
People in the area woke to news Tuesday that the boy was missing and hundreds more showed up to pitch in. Many had horses and off-road vehicles.
“There were some pretty good-looking durum fields adjacent to the yard that would have been taller than the boy by a fairly good margin,” said Layman, who added there were also several water holes in the area.
Layman said two searchers on horseback found the boy in a hole about 9 a.m. after they heard him laugh.
“He saw them before they saw him, actually. He saw their horses and he started giggling and wanted to pet the horses,” said Layman.
“The entire area just erupted with joy. It was pretty emotional. Everybody was yelling and people were running around.”
Moat was searching in an off-road vehicle with her father and a friend, when a friend of her aunt ran up to tell her Courtlund had been found.
“He had found a little gully, almost like a little trench, that was the exact height of him.”
When Moat reunited with her son, he was calm — and caked in mud from head to toe.
“We kind of went for a little walk away from everybody so I could just hold him and give him hugs.”
After Courtlund was checked out at the hospital in nearby Swift Current, Sask., his family relaxed for a bit. They drove home to Edmonton on Wednesday.
The ordeal doesn’t seem to have registered with Courtlund.
“I don’t think he bats an eye at it or even knows what happened, really.”
Moat said she was amazed by how so many people came to help, lining the gravel road with their horse trailers and off-road vehicles and getting themselves organized.
“We had every piece of technology we possibly could have had out there looking for him and if it hadn’t been for the locals on foot, on horseback, on quads, we wouldn’t have found him,” she said.
“I honestly can’t say enough about how amazing everybody was.”