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Missing Tolaga Bay toddler Axel, 4, found safe and well after 21-hour ordeal

Missing Tolaga Bay four-year-old Axel has been found “safe and well”.

He was reunited with his tearful mother and appeared to be in good spirits – albeit missing his pants – after a 21-hour ordeal.

There are reports that Axel was found on a forest road 19km from his home.

With his mum’s nose touching his – Axel could be seen with a little grin on his face.

He was still wearing the blue gumboots described when the missing person alerts was issued yesterday.

A family member of a volunteer posted the little boy was OK and tucking into some food inside his house. Volunteers were still gathered outside.

“He’s alright whānau he’s having a kai.”

A photo shared on social mediarevealed the moment search and rescuers realised the
boy had been found alive.

“Over 100 search and rescue volunteers cheered as the crew that found him made their way up the driveway.”

Police confirmed Axel was discovered “safe and well” at 10.45am and had now been reunited with his family.

“Police would like to thank everyone who offered their assistance in searching for him.”

The urgent search for Axel had continued before first light today after he went missing yesterday.

Volunteers – including a local rugby team – had met police this morning to resume the search.

Between 40 and 50 volunteers plus Land Search and Rescue staff and air support resumed searching this morning, police said.

A small dog named Bro which Axel had been playing with when he went missing from the Paroa Rd property returned alone yesterday afternoon, sparking fears for the little boy’s safety.

The dog’s owner, Damon Jeffrey, had earlier posted on social media that the white fluffy dog came home about 4pm – three hours after he disappeared with the boy.

Jeffrey said his dog always responded to his call – but this time despite him yelling and whistling for hours he did not.

“There’s no way he couldn’t hear me calling him. The only reason he wouldn’t have come straight back is if something was wrong. And to come back alone really worries me.”

They tried to take the dog back out in the hope he would lead them to the boy, but too many searchers were around so the dog became excited and didn’t help, he posted.

Police are urgently appealing for anyone with information about the young boy’s whereabouts to come forward.

Police carried out a large-scale search for him after he was reported missing at 3pm yesterday, which was called off at 11pm.

Emergency responders including the Eagle helicopter and police dogs, as well as more than 100 volunteers, have been involved in the search.

Axel was last seen wearing a blue shirt with palm trees on it and blue gumboots with sharks on them.

It is understood his parents started looking for him about 1pm when neither of them could find him.

Overnight, temperatures in Gisborne dropped to 4C at 3am.

By 7am, it was about 7C, according to MetService, but that it felt like “three to four layers” of clothing.

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