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PRAYERS ANSWERED: Toddler found in the woods after 3 days


MAGOFFIN/FLOYD COUNTY LINE – The 22-month-old that was missing for nearly three days was found alive and in good condition on Wednesday afternoon.

The parents of 22-month-old Kenneth Howard told officials they realized the toddler was missing at approximately 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 12, at a home located on Kenneth Combs Road, off of Rt. 7 and less than one mile from the Floyd County line. The father reported to officials that he was on the other side of the house, and the toddler was last seen at the corner of the house. 

When they realized he was missing, they started looking for him, then called the South Magoffin Volunteer Fire Department, whose members helped search for the child for approximately half an hour before calling 911. Kentucky State Police, Magoffin County Sheriff Department, Magoffin County Rescue Squad and other agencies then joined the search, which was briefly called off at the 24-hour mark until officials could get more information and resources.

Numerous groups of dogs and their handlers did searches of the area Sunday night through Wednesday. Pikeville Emergency Management used thermal imaging drones to scan the area and Kentucky State Police deployed helicopters to assist in the search, but the area is described as being dense with tree coverage and hills. 

The case was turned over to KSP on Tuesday, but no new information was uncovered that day, either.

Prayer vigils were held in Salyersville and Paintsville Tuesday night with countless community members gathering to pray for the missing toddler.

On Wednesday crews had extended the search into Floyd County, less than a mile from the home on an old strip job, with ATVs, horses, more dog crews, and more, searching the area. Search crews included people from Wolfe County Search and Rescue, Morgan County Rescue Squad, Middle Creek Volunteer Fire Department, East Kentucky Trackers, Prestonsburg Fire Department, South Magoffin Fire Department, Belfry Fire Department, Middle Fork Fire Department and Kentucky State Police continued searching, also opening the search up to volunteers, as well.

Magoffin County Rescue Squad Captain Carter Conley told the Independent just before the child was found, “We’re still doing what we’re trained to do. We’re always hopeful to have a good ending and we’re committed to do what needs to be done to bring a good ending to the situation.”

Just before 2 p.m. on May 15 Kenneth Howard was found alive and in good condition at the strip mine in Floyd County. KSP reported the child was transported by EMS to a medical facility to be examined and treated as needed. 

Salyersville Independent owner Ritt Mortimer sent a photo just before press time of him driving a vehicle with rescue crew members and the toddler, stating “We’ve had the privilege of bring him off the hill!” 

Mortimer interviewed the group of men responsible for finding Kenneth Howard. The group consisted of Joe Cox of West Liberty Fire Department, Michael Tussey of Prestonsburg Fire Department, Prestonsburg Fire Department Chief Mike Brown, Kenny Crisp with Prestonsburg Fire Department, Danny Whitt with Belfry Volunteer Fire Department, Gregory Davis with Belfry Volunteer Fire Department and Josh Parsons with Prestonsburg Fire Department, as well as Clay Corbett of Floyd County who was off camera. The group was grid searching the area and working their way down when Tussey heard something and started yelling Kenneth’s name. They heard the child yell back to them and after a few times, they were able to pinpoint where the sound was coming from, making their way back up the hill. Two of the men saw Kenneth sitting up on the ridge.

“There’s no feeling like it,” Danny Whitt said about first seeing the boy. “It was amazing.”

Michael Tussey said, “It’s all from the Lord.”

Mortimer also talked to the family, understandably rejoicing at the news. 

The father, Elden Howard, told Mortimer, “It’s the best feeling I’ve had in my life,” thanking everyone for prayers, for bringing food, the search and rescue crews, dogs, horses – everyone involved in finding the boy.

The case remains under investigation and more information will be released as it becomes available.


Heather Oney

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