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Teen hunter survives being lost overnight in single-digit temperatures

(Courtesy Eric Neilson)


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HOOPER, Weber County — A 14-year-old boy missing overnight in the wetlands west of Weber County has been found.

Through the night, the boy apparently walked from the Ogden Bay Bird Refuge west of Hooper, where he had been hunting, to the Antelope Island causeway in Syracuse, Weber County Sheriff's Lt. Lane Findlay said.

The teen was found about 6 a.m. Sunday when he reached the causeway and located a landline phone to call for help.

"I'm sure it has been an exhausting night for him," Findlay said.

Family members identified the boy as Brayden Neilson, of Bluffdale, and reported that he was resting at home Sunday afternoon after being released from the hospital. Brayden is expected to fully recover, according to his brother, Eric Neilson, though the family is closely watching his hands for any lingering damage.

Brayden was hypothermic when he was found, Eric Neilson said. He had taken off his gloves and his hands were blue, the brother said.

Findlay said Brayden was "confused and somewhat delusional" when searchers responded to his call for help at the causeway early Sunday morning.

Police were called about 9 p.m. Saturday by another juvenile, a family friend who had been hunting with Brayden. The juvenile said the two had become separated and Brayden couldn't find his way back to their vehicle.

Brayden also called 911 from a cellphone about the same time. Authorities were concerned early on about the risk of hypothermia for the boy, who had arrived in the area about 2 a.m. Saturday to hunt and had already been out all day.

The information Brayden provided dispatchers was at times confusing and inconsistent.

"There was some concern he was starting to get hypothermia and was maybe hallucinating," Findlay said.

Eric Neilson said the last call Brayden made came to his grandmother about 1 a.m., reporting he was five minutes away from home despite the great distance to his house in Bluffdale. The last photo he took with his phone before he got lost was a selfie on Snapchat, showing the temperature at 19 degrees with a caption, "Waiting for Dom (to) pick me up."

Attempts to "ping" Brayden's cellphone throughout the search did not yield a specific location, and the phone's battery later died, according to police. Searchers also located Brayden's abandoned sled of supplies during the night.

Officers from the Weber and Davis county sheriff's offices participated in the search, as well as search and rescue teams from both counties, Utah Highway Patrol officers, a Department of Public Safety helicopter and a medical helicopter that assisted with flying over the area.

Contributing: Sandra Yi

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McKenzie Romero

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