The three children who went missing Thursday night in Sam Houston National Forest in Montgomery, which led to a multi-agency search effort, were found safe Friday morning, according to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.
In a statement Friday, the sheriff’s office stated the children, two, six years of age and one seven years of age, were uninjured and explained that the trio had gotten lost after they diverted from a commonly used trail to play in a dry creek.
The rescue early Friday in Montgomery was captured in part on body camera video. In the video, a deputy is seen calling out to the children, who were accompanied by a volunteer who had found the children in the woods.
After hearing reports the children had gone missing, the man, who knew the forest well, set out on his own to search for the kids. At around 9:30 a.m. he found the children in an area of the forest at least a mile from where they were thought to have entered.
The volunteer struggled with poor cell service and initially had a hard time contacting authorities. At some point, a call to 911 went through and he told dispatch he had found the children. Dispatchers triangulated the man’s position and directed a nearby deputy, Sgt. Jason Smith with the Montgomery County Precinct 2 Constable’s Office, to meet the group.
Smith entered the thick woods and after some time located the children and the volunteer who had found them. In the bodycam footage, smith is heard saying “I got ‘em, I got ‘em” and “I have the kids,” into his radio. “I have all three children,” he continues.
The volunteer asks Smith “Ain’t Jesus good?” to which Smith replies “He’s good.”
Smith then address the kids, saying “I’m the police. Are y’all ready to get out of the woods?”
One of the children is heard saying “I’m really hungry right now.”
The volunteer jokingly asks Smith if he has any cheeseburgers in his car.
“We’re going to get something to eat,” Smith says.
The children told Smith they took shelter under a fallen tree overnight, adding that their parents had in the past advised them to stay in one spot and wait for help in the event they got lost.
The men and the kids then began the trek out of the woods. Smith used a compass on his phone to navigate. When his phone stopped working, he directed responders to activate their sirens so he’d know whether or not he was headed in the right direction.
At one point, as the kids walk ahead of him, Smith is heard saying “Don’t get too far ahead, okay. I don’t want to lose y’all again.”
After about 20 minutes hiking through the dense forest, the group emerged and joined with the first responders who were waiting for them.
As the children are led past Smith, he gives each of them a high five and yells “Hey, remind them about those cheeseburgers okay.”