UPDATE | Aunt, cousin speak as toddler recovers in hospital

Published: May. 13, 2019 at 3:36 PM EDT
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UPDATE 5/16/19 @ 6:10 p.m.

Kenneth Howard is still under the care of doctors at Cabell Huntington Hospital Thursday evening.

His aunt Vicky Howard tells us, ‘Kenny’ has some swelling and is still a little dehydrated but, all things considered, he's doing great.

"I don't think I've ever cried that much over anything," Vicky said. "There's not words to describe the feelings when we got that call he's been found."

That call came Wednesday afternoon after almost three full days and nights of searching. During that time, there were cold nights and rain with Kenny wearing only a T-shirt, jogging pants and sandals.

"It's hard to ever lose hope but I honestly was preparing for the worst," Vicky said.

Normally a happy and active boy, into everything, who loves anything with wheels. But she said he was quieter than usual Thursday.

"He's not said anything besides drink. He just wants drink,” she said. But, “we got a couple grins out of him."

Kenny’s 9-year-old cousin Dalton was one of those searchers.

"Yeah, I was really worried," he said.

He prayed every night for a safe return, just like hundreds of others.

On behalf of the family, Vicky thanks all those who searched, helped and prayed.

"There's no words to describe how thankful we are that everyone didn't give up hope."

For Dalton, there’s excitement and joy to not lose his cousin and friend.

"I'm going to go back and play with him as soon as I can,” Dalton said.

For Vicky, these last 24 hours changes the way she sees everything.

"I've never been one to believe in miracles but once you witness one, you'll never go back to not believing," she said.

Surviving 66 hours with no food, no water and just the clothes on your back, "I couldn't survive that long in the woods. Two bug bites and I'd be out," Vicky said.

But to do it when you haven't even celebrated your second birthday, it truly is a "miracle in the mountains."

Vicky adds doctors are waiting on some lab tests to be clear as well as an ear, nose and throat specialist. In addition to the scrapes and bumps, Kenny had some ticks in his nose and ears.

He is expected to spend at least another night in the hospital but might be able to be released Friday.

UPDATE 5/16/19 @ 3:50 p.m.

A day after the dramatic rescue of a toddler from a cliff in eastern Kentucky, the 22-month-old boy is making a quick recovery Thursday.

Officials involved with the rescue operation of Kenneth Howard, who say his being found was nothing less than a miracle, said he’s in good condition at Cabell Huntington Hospital.

Carter Conley, the chief of the Magoffin County Rescue Squad, says Kenneth has been eating food, and hospital staff was able to remove an IV from him.

It’s unknown how much longer Kenneth will stay at the hospital.

Michael Tussey, the Prestonsburg firefighter who first heard Kenneth crying, shared an emotional account of what it was like finally finding him after three days of searching.

Tussey was part of an eight-person search team combing the woods about a quarter of a mile from the boy’s home in Floyd County where he disappeared Sunday evening.

Tussey says his team had been calling out for Kenneth when he heard crying in the distance. He told his fellow searchers to be quiet and listen. When he heard the crying again, he took off running.

He says it took a few minutes to get to Kenneth. He says they gave him a drink, and he mumbled about his mom and dad.

“I was balling like a baby,” Tussey said. “When you come through the thick terrain we’d just gone through and pull up and all you see is a little blonde head with blue eyes you’re not expecting to be alive, and he was alive screaming at you, that’s something that hits the heart.”

Conley says it can’t be overstated how remarkable it is the boy was found safe. Along with the dangers of steep cliffs, Conley says bears and coyotes are known to be in the area, and people can’t live without water more than three days.

"An infant crying is actually a draw to wild animals," Chief John May with Wolfe County search and Rescue said. "It's just very fortunate that a bear, coyote, or bobcat or something along those lines did not hear him crying."

“The man up above is the reason that boy is here,” Tussey said. “There’s no doubt.”

Kentucky State Police day their investigation could last weeks or months, but at this point they don’t think a criminal act was involved. They say the family reported they thought the boy was alone in the back yard briefly, but then they couldn’t find him.

Crews say the denseness and overgrowth of foliage in the area added to the level of difficulty in the search.

They say a couple search teams using dogs had previously searched the area where the boy was found before he was finally located.

Keep checking the WSAZ app for the latest information.

UPDATE 5/15/19 @ 11 p.m.

After being missing more than 60 hours, a 22-month-old boy was found safe, and a massive rescue operation ended with tears of joy.

Kenneth Howard went missing Sunday evening from his home in Magoffin County, Kentucky.

Little Kenneth had been out in the elements alone since then in rough terrain that crews say many adults wouldn't think about travelling.

The boy was flown to Cabell Huntignton Hospital to be evaluated. Rescue crews say he was dehydrated but otherwise ok.

After three nights of what family members call indescribable anguish, emotions flipped when they say they received a miracle.

"It's the best thing that's ever happened to me in my life," the boy's father, Elden Howard, told WSAZ.

After nearly three full days of a search involving close to 300 people, helicopters, drones with thermal cameras, K-9 units and off-road vehicles, the boy's father says he feared the worst.

"It was getting harder every day," Howard said. "I was starting to think somebody had picked him up."

Howard says his first reaction when he heard his son was safe was disbelief until he saw a picture of him.

"It tickled me to death," he said.

Rescue crews found the boy sitting on a 50-foot cliff on old mine property, more than a quarter of a mile from his home where he disappeared from.

"He's a tough little boy," the father said. "He's stout. I'd say that's what saved him. He can move. To be 22 months old, he's hard to keep up with."

Carter Conley, the chief of the Magoffin County Rescue Squad, says he's been on rescue operations that didn't have this kind of ending.

"I have been on a lot, and this is one of few that were successful," Conley said. "I'm very thankful this one was successful. It was all a team effort."

As crews got close to Kenneth, they heard crying. After he was rescued, he said repeatedly, "Here all night."

"This was like somebody dropping a big boulder on you when he left," the father said. "Now it's like somebody picked it up off of you."

Kentucky State Police are still looking into the circumstances of how Kenneth went missing, which is standard protocol anytime something like this happens.

His family says they think he may have walked out the back door of their home.

UPDATE 5/15/19 @ 8:30 p.m.

A toddler who was found safely Wednesday on a 50-foot cliff has been taken to Cabell Huntington Hospital to be evaluated, rescue crew officials say.

Overall, Kenneth Howard, who's 22 months old, is doing well. Crews say dehydration was their main concern. Kenneth had been missing since around 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

Rescue crews found him sitting on a 50-foot rock outcropping on old mine property, about 1,755 feet from where Kenneth disappeared from his home in Magoffin County. The rescue scene is in the Hueysville area near the Floyd/Magoffin County line.

While Kentucky State Police are still investigating the circumstances of how Kenneth went missing, his family said they believe he may have walked out the back door of their home. Their reaction was, understandably, relief and elation when he was found.

“Disbelief for a while till they told me they were sure it was him," said Kenneth's father Elden Howard. "I saw a picture of him and said that’s my boy. It tickled me to death, best thing that’s ever happened to me in my life.”

Kenneth's sister Tasha Howard had a similar reaction.

“It’s been difficult, but I never did give up because I have faith," she said. "I know God is with us because we wouldn’t have found him.”

As crews got close to Kenneth, they heard crying. After he was rescued, he said repeatedly, "Here all night," according to Clay Corbett with East Kentucky Trackers.

Crews were able to climb up to the outcropping and carry Kenneth up about another 75 yards. No rescue basket was needed. Rescuers said they could see where Kenneth had slid down to where he was trapped.

Crews with the Prestonsburg and Belfry fire departments and Floyd County Rescue were among rescue groups from Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee who found Kenneth.

An extensive search effort has been underway all week. It involved helicopters, drones with thermal cameras, K-9 search teams, off-road vehicles and others searching on foot.

Keep checking the WSAZ app for the latest information.

UPDATE 5/15/19 @ 2:45 p.m.

A missing child from Magoffin County was found safely by rescue crews Wednesday, although he was in a potentially deadly situation, rescue crews say.

Kenneth Howard was found on a 50-foot cliff along Raccoon Road in the Hueysville area, according to Magoffin Rescue Squad Director Carter Conley. Rescue crews heard crying and used a basket to get to Kenneth, who's only 22 months old.

Kenneth was found about 1,755 feet from home on old mine property near the Floyd/Magoffin County line. Family members say they believe he may have walked out the back door of the home.

Other than some dehydration, Kenneth is said to doing OK. A helicopter was sent to fly him to a pediatric trauma center.

An extensive search effort has been underway all week. It involved helicopters, drones with thermal cameras, K-9 search teams, off-road vehicles and others searching on foot.

We have a crew at the scene. Keep checking the WSAZ app for the latest information.

UPDATE 5/14/19 @ 11:51 a.m.

A Magoffin County father is offering a reward for anyone who brings back his 22-month-old son.

Kenneth Howard was last seen around 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Family members said they believe he may have walked out the back door of his home.

Outside Kenneth's home early Tuesday morning, his father, Elden Howard, described how emotional this has been for him and his wife.

"She's in pretty bad shape too -- she's tore all to pieces," Elden told WYMT. "It's just not knowing what to do. We've searched everywhere we can think of they've had dog teams in here. Nothing's showing up."

The search for the blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy lasted for about 23 hours before search teams suspended their efforts Monday night.

"I would just like to see him come home safe," said Elden. "I guess it's adrenaline. I can't rest, can't eat. I've ate one bologna sandwich since Sunday."

When asked about what he thinks happened, Elden said, "Yeah, it's just like he disappeared. No sign. No nothing. That's the reason I'm started to think, if we can't find him, somebody's picked him up."

The father said he will give $5,000 to anyone who returns his son, no questions asked.

"Well he'd go from morning to night full blast," said Elden, describing his son's personality. "He'd never slow down. He'd take about an hour's nap during through the day and got the rest of the time until about 9:30 or 10 o'clock at night. Every day he's like that."

All day Monday, there were helicopters, drones with thermal cameras, K9 search teams, off-road vehicles, and others searching on foot. Elden was moved by the number of people who came to help.

"I'd say there are 40 or 50 people in the hills searching all day," he said. "Best thing I could've seen is everybody showing up."

Kentucky State Police ask anyone with information about Kenneth to call 606-433-7711 or their local 911 agency.


The search is underway for a missing toddler in eastern Kentucky.

Investigators are looking for 22-month-old Kenneth Howard. He went missing Sunday night.

Crews are searching in the Kenneth Combs Road area of Magoffin County, near Floyd County. They are being assisted by two helicopters and several search dogs. There is a wooded hillside behind and around the boy's home at the end of a hollow.

It's unclear what Kenneth's parents were doing when he went missing.

Carter Conley leads the Magoffin County Rescue Squad. He told WKYT his team was contacted around 8:30 p.m. Conley said Kenneth went missing around 7:30 p.m. and that the family spent time looking for him before calling the police.

Volunteers are also responding to provide water and food for search teams.

More on Kenneth Howard’s incredible rescue,

Posted by Dan Klein on Wednesday, May 15, 2019