BECKER, Minn. (AP) — A 6-year-old Minnesota boy who had been missing for hours was found safe early Wednesday after a volunteer used a drone with a thermal camera to help find the child in a dark cornfield more than a mile from his home.
The boy, named Ethan Haus, hadn't been seen since 4:10 p.m. on Tuesday when he got off a school bus with his siblings near Highway 25 in Becker and ran to play with the family dog, Remington, according to the Sherburne County Sheriff's Office. Becker is located about 45 miles (72 kilometers) northwest of Minneapolis.
The sheriff's office said in a news release that Ethan was found safe with his dog about 1:50 a.m. on Wednesday, about 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) from his home. He was brought to a hospital to be checked and was cold but otherwise OK, authorities said. Temperatures in the area were in the low 40s (about 5 degrees Celsius) overnight Tuesday.
One of the more than 600 volunteers who helped search for the boy was a private drone operator who brought his drone with thermal imaging. The device targeted Ethan and the dog in the cornfield, sheriff's officials said. The boy and his dog were lying in the field when they were found.
"If not for that drone, I'm not sure we would have found him," Sherburne County Sheriff Joel Brott said.
WCCO-TV reports the drone pilot, Steve Fines, said that he'd never used a drone in a search operation before.
"It was a moment that was going to make his parents so happy, and vicariously we all felt that," Fines said.
A state patrol helicopter and another thermal imaging drone from the Big Lake Police Department were also used in the search.
Fines told The Associated Press he does thermal inspections and drone work as his business, and he just "had to go help" after the sheriff's office posted something about their search on Twitter. He said he worked with law enforcement to search in a grid pattern and had his drone in the air for more than two hours before the boy was found.
When asked if he would do the same thing again, he replied, "in a heartbeat."
This story has been corrected to show that the boy's name is Ethan, not Evan.