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'I almost gave up', Pilot who saved lost boy narrates six-day encounter

Sheldrick Wildlife Trust's pilot Roan Carr-Hartley. [Source: SWT Website]

Roan Carr-Hartley, the pilot who rescued the four-year-old boy who went missing for almost a week has narrated his experience.

The four-year-old boy went missing in Asa village, which borders Tsavo East National Park, on November 28, 2022, and was rescued on Sunday, December 4, six days after his initial disappearance.

According to Pilot Roan, he got a call from the area chief, requesting him to help in the search for a young boy who went missing while herding the cattle with his brother.

“The chief had heard people from the neighbouring town speaking about a pilot who helped find a missing child just a few days prior. After hearing these stories, he too asked for aerial assistance,” he narrates.

Since it was already dark, the search was scheduled for the next morning.

“I left Kaluku HQ at around 6:15 am and flew 70 minutes to reach the boy’s village. By the time I was overhead, a search party of 70 men were fanning through the wild scrubland in search of the little boy,” Roan says.

“I had a rough direction of the search party’s location given to me by the Chief. The party had tracked the boy to an area 7 kilometres from his village, but then the tracks started to become unreadable,”

After searching for a whole day, the boy was nowhere to be found, Roan says.

It is at this point that the pilot says, he almost gave. There was a heavy downpour that night, and the following morning it was hard to track the boy’s footsteps.

At this point, his parents and the chief decided nothing more could be done from the air and called off the air search.

Five days later, the pilot was called in again. This time the ground search team had found some tracks suspected to be the boy’s. They needed help.

“He told me that the ground team had re-discovered the boy's tracks, a staggering 15 kilometres from his village. I was in shock that the boy was still alive, let alone walking. After nearly a week of heavy rainfall, with no food and predators roaming the area, one can be forgiven for losing hope,” the pilot says.

After hours of searching, the pilot says “, I saw a tiny figure below me, surrounded by a mass of shrubs and trees.

I could not believe my eyes, but there he was: a tiny boy surrounded by endless wilderness. I was in shock that he was still alive and walking,”

He says the boy looked feeble and weak.

While circling around the area, he caught the attention of the ground search team who rushed to the area and saved the young boy.

“After circling for a half hour, three men suddenly appeared off my right wing. They were part of the search party and had come from kilometres away after seeing me circling for a while. I opened the door of the aircraft and began pointing at the boy,”

“They realised I had found something and began running. They eventually got to the boy, who was frozen still in disbelief that his ordeal was over,”.

However, his body was filled with mosquito bites, and scratches from thorn bushes, and his feet were also blistered and riddled with thorns and cuts.

“He was extremely weak, as one can imagine,” the pilot says.

Doctors were called to attend to him and days later the boy was back on his feet, playing with his mates.

The boy has been named Roan, after the pilot who rescued him. Others call him a pilot.

The pilot was awarded a goat by the family and village elders as a token of appreciation.