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Parents speak after 6-year-old with autism rescued in remote area of Iron County

Posted at 9:34 PM, Mar 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-09 23:34:53-05

CEDAR CITY, Utah -- After nearly nine hours lost and alone in the desert, a 6-year-old boy with autism is back safe with his family in Cedar City.

“He kept asking me, 'Mom why you crying, mom why you crying?' and I just said 'I’m happy you're OK,'" said Shae Milner, Zayden’s mom.

Zayden wandered away from his grandmother Thursday while they were shed hunting in Iron County.

“All I could think is my 6-year-old is out there and no one knows where he was at,” Milner said.

Piercing through the pitch black was a light from a rescue helicopter as crews spent hours searching for 6-year-old Zayden.

“Horrible; it felt like it went on forever, like the longer they couldn't find him it was getting harder and harder to cope,” Milner said.

One hour turned into two, and at 8 hours there was still no sign of the boy. The what ifs began flooding his mother’s mind.

“I was petrified because I know there are a bunch of mine shafts out there, and all I could think was its pitch black out there, who knows if he's fell down somewhere, got injured,” Milner said.

Knowing little Zayden was alone, scared and maybe even hurt was too much to endure.

“I couldn't even imagine what was going through his head,” Milner said.

Iron County Search and Rescue brought in all their resources.

As it reached 2 a.m. Friday, crews were about postpone the search until the sun came up.

“All I could think is, I can't leave my baby out here all night,” Milner said.

Finally, nine hours later and almost two miles away from where he was last seen, they found him.

His mom saw Zayden wearing a rescuers coat and hat, with a smile on his face, trying to get warm.

“The first thing he said to me was. 'Mom I wasn't scared I knew you would find me,'" Milner said.

Zayden went to the doctor and is in good shape. Zayden’s mother says this is a reminder of how easily those with autism can walk off. She says people are quick to judge, but wandering is something those with autism will often do.