NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) – It was a terrifying day for parents in North Tonawanda, when two children wandered off into the woods. But that horror turned into immense relief when officers located the kids and brought the home.
Neighbors stood in their front yards, watching the harrowing situation unfold. By the time our cameras arrived on scene, people were hugging and shouting, “They’ve been found.”
Jennifer Karcz ran to be reunited with her 3-year-old daughter, Anastasia, whose bare feet slapped against the sidewalk.
“She’s… I’m just so glad she’s back with me,” Jennifer said.
Anastasia and her 3-year-old friend Trent had been playing in the back yard OF a home on Daniel Drive when they vanished. Karcz quickly organized her neighbors to form a search party, but the children could not be found. That’s when police were called in.
Jennifer said, “My husband called me while I was searching and he said, ‘They found her, they found her! They’re on their way here!’ And that’s all I know.”
Anastasia explained what took place, saying “I was at Trent’s house in the woods” when she and her friend became lost and struggled to find their way home.
The search lasted for about an hour. The kids had wandered off a trail through the woods in search of mice, but they wandered too far and ended up about a mile away from home. Police say they found the pair in tears, hiding under some brush.
Officer Shawn Larson found the children in the muddy woods.
“They were wet, shivering, very scared and all they wanted to do is go home,” he said. “I carried the girl out and held the boy’s hand until one of the other officers assisted me and then he carried the boy out and I put my jacket around the girl and one of the other officers put his jacket around the boy to warm them up because they were pretty cold.”
Jennifer’s husband, John, said, “You can’t imagine what goes through your head when your 3-year-old is missing.”
He became very emotional when he saw his little girl, safe and sound.
“She’s suddenly gone and you don’t know where she is…the helplessness is totally incapacitating,” John said.
Now that she’s safe, John said he feels, “More relieved than I’ve ever felt in my entire life.”
“I’m so glad she’s back and safe, and I’m so glad Trent’s back and safe,” Jennifer added.
Though some neighbors are calling officers a hero, Officer Larson had this to say:
“We were just doing our job and I’m glad it all worked out in the end.”
It was a very tense situation, but there was a comical moment. Officer Larson allowed the children to radio their parents after they were found, letting them know that they were safe. But instead of saying hello, the first thing Anastasia asked was if she was going to jail.