MELBOURNE: An autistic teen lost for two days in Australian bushland was reunited with his family on Wednesday (Jun 10), after a hundreds-strong volunteer search that involved using Vegemite and the Thomas the Tank Engine theme tune.
Will Callaghan, a teen with non-verbal autism, became separated from his family on the summit of Mount Disappointment near Melbourne on Monday, but was found by a volunteer after spending two nights exposed to freezing temperatures.
"I am really overwhelmed, he's as well as can be expected," said visibly relieved mother Penny Callaghan after the 14-year-old was discovered. "Thank you everyone. I'm so grateful."
Residents living nearby joined the manhunt and had been asked to barbecue bacon and onions and to leave out his favourite food in hope that the smells would draw the boy out of the bush.
Police inspector Christine Lalor had called for Vegemite and feta to be left out as officers set up three loudspeakers in the area to play songs from Thomas the Tank Engine.
Volunteer Ben Gibbs told Australian public broadcaster ABC that he had been breaking through thick bushland when the boy appeared just metres away.
"He was really angelic, just standing there," said Gibbs. "I heard he liked Thomas the Tank Engine so I just talked to him about Diesel (a character) and stuff like that."
Will Callaghan's discovery had garnered wide public attention and was met with relief.
Temperatures had dropped below 0 degree Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) in the area on Monday night, sparking fears for his safety in what police described as "life-threatening" conditions.
Victoria state premier Dan Andrews welcomed the news, and said: "It might be named Mount Disappointment, but there's absolutely nothing disappointing about today."