Missing three-year-old Jimmy O’Reilly found safe after day-long search
After almost 12 hours lost in dense forest, three-year-old James O’Reilly was reunited with his overjoyed parents this evening.
The toddler, wearing only white Spiderman pyjamas and blue wellington boots, endured atrocious weather — including hail — during his ordeal near Yallingup in the State’s South West.
But he was found “fit and well” by his grandad walking just outside a firebreak that had been searched earlier in the day.
Speaking to media outside the property, where a lone floodlight shone above the otherwise pitch-black street, Inspector Martin Voyez said the “young lad is in good shape”.
One of the first things he reportedly said after being found — 1km from where he vanished this morning — was that he was “hungry”.
He was found “crying and upset, but extremely pleased to see one of his own family members who had been calling out his name”.
“Very subdued and hungry,” Insp. Voyez said when asked how Jimmy was doing. “It’s some truly excellent news ... and quite surprising.”
He was taken by St John Ambulance to Busselton Hospital at 7.30pm. The Sunday Times was told it was just a precaution and that the boy was OK.
The almost miraculous discovery happened just as officers were preparing to search through the freezing night.
As darkness fell on the densely forested spot near Yallingup, locals who’d spent all day frantically looking for the toddler in atrocious weather — including hail — grew more concerned, their spirits as dampened as their clothes.
But searchers were jubilant when word spread at 7pm that the boy had finally been found.
The toddler is believed to have wandered into the bush surrounding the Airbnb property in a moment when his parents were distracted. He was last seen outside the holiday accommodation about 7.30am.
At the time, Jimmy’s mum had been feeding her other child — a six-month-old baby boy — inside the house. The last time she saw Jimmy, he was playing with the family’s two dogs.
“His mother noticed that he was missing when she went out to check on him. She made a thorough check of the area but could not find him,” Insp. Martin Voyez said. “Little Jimmy’s mother then called police, and throughout the day police, SES and other volunteers have been searching tirelessly for little Jimmy.
“The family, naturally, are devastated,” he said, earlier in the day.
“They have all the support they need and are at this time being comforted by police and others, including friends and family members who’ve travelled down from Perth to be with them.”
In a brief statement before he was found, James’ aunt said her little nephew is a “very bright, curious and cheeky little boy” who is “very-much loved by his mum, dad and little brother”. The family is “still hoping he’s taken himself off on a little adventure and will be found safe and sound soon”.
A drone was used to fly over the canopies of forest on all sides of the property. It broadcast a recorded message from Jimmy’s mum.
“Hi James, it’s Mummy,” said the shaking voice. “If you can see something flying in the air above you and it’s got flashing red and blue lights, you need to follow it, OK. Then you can find your way home.”
Before he was found police insisted they were treating the matter as simply a missing persons case and didn’t suspect anything sinister.
As darkness settled in this evening the fears for Jimmy were about the weather and the dangers of hypothermia.
Some locals also voiced concern about snakes at this time of year.
The scenes around the house were frantic. Neighbour Eamonn McGrath, who lives a mere 100m from where Jimmy vanished, woke to the sound of screams.
“The boy’s dad was yelling and yelling ‘Jimmy! Jimmy!’ At first I thought he was calling his dogs, but then something changed in his voice, and he was screaming.
“He just kept screaming. I couldn’t see him but I could hear him. And the mum was just distraught.”
Mr McGrath was the first member of the public on scene and alerted the rest of the street.
Within half an hour a swathe of neighbours swarmed Karli Rise and began scouring dense bushland.
Today’s search grew in size during the morning, with scores of people arriving to help in any way.
State Emergency Service crews scoured 10sqkm of ground from morning to dusk.
“The terrain around the holiday home is very thick, dense bush and very difficult for people to walk through,” Insp. Voyez said.
They were assisted from above by Police Air Wing, which includes the helicopter and drone. Local police forces, Busselton Detectives, the Canine Section and Mounted Police from Perth all pitched in.
“We will continue this evening and into the night, and as long as it takes to find little Jimmy,’’ Insp. Voyez said at a press confernce called at 4pm to update media.
“The weather today has been appalling, with heavy rain and even hail at times.
“However, we will continue to search for little Jimmy until he’s found,’’ he added.
Despite the relentless weather, including bitingly cold wind gusts, the resolve and determination among searchers to keep going was evident.
This morning, neighbours were asked to search their own properties.
It is understood there are several dams, waterholes and even caves in the bushland surrounding the area, which isn’t far from Injidup Beach.
Dunsborough local Therese Colman said she joined the search about 9.30am and had co-operated with police and SES volunteers by keeping to roads and fire breaks.
“We came as soon as we could and have been searching a grid surrounding the premises for the last four hours,” she said.
“We’re really hoping that he is cuddled up hiding from the rain and hasn’t been hurt.”
Sunshine gave way to heavy rain in the afternoon. The police helicopter paused its search at 2.30pm to refuel in Bunbury.
Neighbour and Wadandi elder Billy Webb said the father was “distraught” when he spoke to him earlier in the day.
“I’m concerned about snakes as this is a common time of the year for snake sightings,” he said.
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