COVID warning for missing boy's rescuers

·3-min read

People who helped in the search for a missing three-year-old boy in NSW's Hunter region are being urged to get tested for COVID-19 after a local community case.

Anthony "AJ" Elfalak was reunited with his relieved family on Monday, three days after he went missing from his Putty home.

The Putty Community Association said there was a local case of COVID-19 at the St Shenouda Monastery.

"We have just been informed that there is a COVID case at the Monastery," the association posted on Facebook on Tuesday.

"All who participated in the search for AJ are urgently requested to take a COVID test."

AJ, who has autism and is non-verbal, disappeared from his family's sprawling property about 11.45am on Friday.

On Monday, AJ's dad Anthony Elfalak told media his wife Kelly visited the monastery during the search.

"We prayed this morning, my wife just came back from the monastery and prayed and look what happens," he told reporters shortly after his son was found alive.

More than 130 people searched the property, with volunteers helping police on foot and on dirt bikes.

When asked about the case at Tuesday's COVID-19 press conference, Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said she was yet to confirm the case.

"It's probably new overnight," Dr Chant said.

PolAir Tactical Flight Officer Jonathan Smith said he felt "absolute joy" when he saw the boy sitting in a puddle drinking muddy water from a creek.

"As soon as I saw the image of him on the screen I was just taken aback and we straight away knew it was him," Senior Constable Smith said on Tuesday.

He survived three nights in the bush in temperatures that dipped as low as 3C.

Special Constable Kevin Drake was the PolAir pilot and says it was understandable searches in the previous two days had missed the boy.

"You can be on the wrong side of a log during a search and you won't see someone laying there," he said on Tuesday.

"It just depends on terrain, sun, time of day, lots of different influences."

Greg Chalmers was the SES volunteer who first made contact with the boy.

"Here's this beautiful little boy, kneeling in the water trying to get a drink," he told Sydney radio 2GB on Tuesday.

"It was fantastic to absolutely see this little boy was actually alive.

"I put my hand on that little boy and he looked around and gave me the biggest smile.

"It was incredible that he was actually still alive. He gripped on and gripped on and just wouldn't let go."

AJ remained in hospital overnight for observation and was home with his family on Tuesday.

The Elfalak family issued a statement late on Monday expressing gratitude to everyone who helped in the search for AJ.

"AJ is fine," the statement said. "Hold your kids close. Please give our family the privacy to appreciate what we have."

NSW Police Superintendent Tracy Chapman said investigations were ongoing into how AJ made his way so far from home.

"From a policing perspective we will still be continuing our inquiry to understand what has occurred over the past three days," she said.

"I know everyone has lots of questions."

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