Missing 2-year-old found safe

Published 2:00 pm Tuesday, August 29, 2017

It was neighbor Dawn Wilson who located little Levi Hertzler.

The 2-year-old, who went missing for more than two hours Tuesday off of Deer Run Road in southern Buckingham, reportedly told Wilson, “I got lost in the woods.”

Police and numerous volunteer fire and rescue squad members located the boy — last seen on Deer Run Road in southern Buckingham County — after a large search effort.

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He was found in the same yellow rubber boots, camouflage jacket and red hat he was described as wearing when he was first reported missing.

Kevin Flippen, emergency services coordinator for Buckingham County, said Levi had last been seen playing on his back porch at 10:15 a.m.

Buckingham County Sheriff’s Office deputies dispatched volunteers, comprised of concerned residents, employees of nearby businesses and members of nearby churches in groups of 20 to search the area surrounding Levi’s home.

Virginia State Police brought a K-9 to search the area around the residence.

The agencies and volunteers gathered to say a prayer before the search efforts began.

Farmville Volunteer Fire Department, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, Buckingham County Volunteer Rescue Squad and Prospect Volunteer Fire Department were among the agencies also supported the search efforts.

Buckingham County Volunteer Rescue Squad member Misty Morgan said Levi was found walking on the trail that connects his house to Wilson’s house.

Levi was checked as a precaution by EMS volunteers, Buckingham Investigator A.R. Taylor said, but added that Levi appeared to be fine.

He was found less than 100 yards from his house.

Taylor said a bloodhound had finished searching the area and agencies were organizing a grid search — a way of scouring a location with volunteers — when Levi was found.

Michelle Hertzler, Levi’s mother, said she and her husband, Karl, were “really relieved.”

“When he came up from the woods, he told (the neighbor), ‘I got lost in the woods,’” Hertzler said.

She and Karl wrapped Levi in a blue blanket to protect him from the rain, which had been intermittently falling since the morning hours.

Wilson, who found Levi and lives in the house behind that of Levi’s family, said the discovery was unexpected.

“I was filling up a water container to bring for people working here, and he was standing on the trail by our house,” Wilson said. “(I’m) really happy that we found him, really relieved.”

Helen Hertzler, Levi’s maternal grandmother, said the weather was a source of concern in locating Levi.

“I was so hoping it would not get dark before we found him,” Helen said. “That was a big deal to me.”

“I’m just relieved,” Helen said.

Gerald Hochstetler, Levi’s uncle, said he also experienced relief at Levi’s recovery and thanked members of the community for their service.

“I was really blessed by the way the community came together,” Hochstetler said. “Within hours you had police, search parties — it was amazing.”

“It says a lot about the community,” Hochstetler said.