With only her dog for company, a 4-year-old girl survived alone in the Alabama woods before an army of volunteers and law enforcement came together to find her not far from where she was last seen two days before.
Evelyn Sides, who goes by Vadie, wandered off into the woods near Loachapoka, Ala., Wednesday afternoon. A call went out a few hours later from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office: authorities were searching for a white female, “3′ tall and weighs 40 pounds. She has red hair and was wearing a blue print dress with green flower patterns. She may be accompanied by a hound dog, reddish in color with a collar.” Authorities said Vadie had been walking her dog while under the watch of a caretaker when she “essentially just disappeared,” according to AL.com.
Lee County Sheriff’s deputies, K-9 units and volunteer fire and rescue personnel were on the trail. All told, hundreds of law enforcement officers from multiple agencies reportedly helped in the search, assisted by drones, people on horseback and even helicopters. Concerned residents flooded the sheriff’s Facebook page: “Any updates?” “Has she been found?” “How can we help?”
After two nights of searching, the sheriff’s office on Friday opened the search to the public. It asked for “able-bodied persons in good physical condition” to help scout the “dense wooded terrain.”
Vadie was found with her dog, Lucy, just a few hours later, within a mile from where she was last seen.
“It was such an amazing sight,” one of the volunteer searchers, Col. Edward D. Casey of the Alabama Air National Guard, told The New York Times.
“She woke up, stood up and we saw it was her. It was so, so surreal and so amazing. And what’s more amazing was how calm she was.”
On Saturday, Vadie’s mother, Amanda Sides, wrote on Facebook: “I do not have enough words to express the proper gratitude to all of our community that came out to help us find this little angel.”
She said Vadie was still recovering in the hospital but she was doing well.
Sides posted a video of Vadie recounting how she got separated from her caretaker, Nanny, in the woods.
“When Nanny decided, let’s go take a walk, and we took a walk, but then I got too fast and got running and got lost and then I started calling for Nanny, but Nanny was too far,” she said.
She said she crossed by somebody’s house. Then “I slided, slided down a waterfall that was so slippery it was just — shoo!” She said she was brave not to go into a house she saw. She said the dog, Lucy, ran off, “but I found her again.” She said she slept by a road the first night and slept in the place “where they found me” on the second night. Lucy reportedly ran off when searchers found Vadie on Friday.
But Saturday, Lee County Sheriff’s Office had an update: “Lucy the dog is home safe as well.”