Two rescuers, one working with a dog named Gandalf, found lost Boy Scout Michael Auberry simultaneously in the Wilkes County wilderness of western North Carolina, Dr. Scott Spillman, the boy’s Scout leader, told TODAY.
Spillman told TODAY host Meredith Vieira he wouldn't comment on why the 12-year-boy wandered away from camp, but he did give details on the rescue. Spillman said Misha Marshall and her dog Gandalf and fireman Danny Gambill should share the credit for finding him.
“There was a particular lady . . . and a dog that did come up to Michael,” said Spillman. “But before they were able to get right next to him, [Gambill] came from a different angle and approached Michael and walked right up to him. So both are correct.”
Kent Auberry, the missing scout's father, told reporters on Tuesday that Michael left camp because he was homesick. Vieira asked Griffin Prufer, another Scout in Troop #230 who was on the trip, if that was his understanding of what happened.
Prufer told Vieira that the boy may have wandered off not because he was sick for home, but because he was sick of camping. “He said something to his tent mate. He said he didn’t want to go on camping trips anymore,” Prufer said. “So he probably was homesick, but that’s just what I think.”
Spillman was circumspect when asked the same question.
“I don’t think I can comment on that until I get an opportunity to speak with Michael,” he said. “I don’t want to overstate those types off things. At that moment I don’t know that Michael was homesick. I can’t say anything beyond that.”
‘Tremendous life spirit’
The story of how Auberry, who left his fellow Scouts Saturday, survived four days and three nights in temperatures that dipped into the 20s remains to be told, as does whatever role his Scout training had in his ability to survive. The Scout had lost his hat and glasses and collected “lots of scratches” said his father, attorney Kent Auberry, but was apparently in good shape after being treated at a hospital for dehydration and sent home to Greensboro to rest.
Most of the Scouts on the trip had gone on a hike Saturday morning, but Michael Auberry, saying he wanted to sleep in, stayed behind in base camp with a few other Scouts. News reports say he got up around 10 a.m. and disappeared about an hour later.
“I just saw him eating out of his mess kit at lunch that Saturday,” Prufer told Vieira. Shortly after, “I just noticed my dad going into the woods yelling and screaming his name and blowing whistles and stuff. I was scared.”
That touched off the four-day search, that Spillman said involved “literally hundreds of people out there as part of a very large search-and-rescue operation that went from the local all the way up to the national level.”
Around 11 a.m. Tuesday, Marshall and Gandalf, a 2-year-old Shiloh shepherd, spotted Michael. At the same time, Gambill also saw him. When asked if he wanted anything, the Scout, who had told his father he intended to hitchhike the 100 miles home, said a helicopter out of there would be nice.
Auberry was wearing two jackets and told his father he slept in tree branches. Despite the low nighttime temperatures, he was not hypothermic when found, although he was weak and disoriented.
“I don’t know how he stayed warm,” said Kent Auberry. “He’s got a tremendous life spirit.”
—Mike Celizic, TODAYshow.com contributor