TORONTO – A three-year-old boy who wandered outside dressed only in a shirt and diaper died Thursday hours after being found frozen and without vital signs in the bitter cold, authorities said.
Police said Elijah had disappeared from a north-end apartment of a family member overnight. He was found in the backyard of a nearby home.
“We regret to announce that three-year-old Elijah has died,” police said in a tweet.
“Our thoughts are with his family and all affected by this tragedy.”
Security camera video showed Elijah leaving the building at about 4 a.m. Temperatures had fallen to about -20 C. He was found about six hours later.
Elijah’s grandmother sobbed and hugged friends as she left her apartment Thursday afternoon, en route to the hospital.
“No, no, no,” was all she could say through tears.
Her long-time friend and neighbour, Millie Dyer, said the family was distraught.
“He’s very energetic and runs around all over the place,” Dyer said moments before hearing of the boy’s death.
“He’s a very smart little boy.”
Dyer said Elijah, whom she called “sweet,” was over at his grandmother’s place all the time and has two aunts who also live in the same apartment complex.
“When his mom has to work, Elijah is here. And he goes to daycare just down the street,” Dyer said.
Family members, who notified police of his disappearance at about 7:30 a.m., said they had put him to bed Wednesday night and woke up to find him gone and the front door open, Const. Victor Kwong said.
Officers on horseback, foot and in a helicopter searched for him , and police asked neighbours to search their yards, hallways and stairwells for the missing youngster.
“Obviously the police response was aggressive and massive, Barredo said.
Pratatban Thurairajah, from the city’s west end, was one of volunteers helping police search for the missing boy after hearing about the incident on the radio.
“I decided to come down to look for him, trying to find him,” Thurairajah said.
“I wanted to find the boy — trying to do my part.”
Seemingly miraculous survival has occurred in such circumstances.
Just last week, a 2 1/2-year-old Polish boy found near death outside in minus-7-degree weather was released from hospital after months of treatment, apparently with only minor physical impairments.
When found unconscious in November, little Adam’s body temperature was just 12.7 degrees — normal is about 37 degrees — and his heart was beating less than twice a minute. He had apparently crossed a creek after sneaking out at night from his grandmother’s house in the village of Raclawice.
In February 1994, 2 1/2-year-old Karlee Kosolofski was discovered frozen at the door to her home in Rouleau, Sask., with a body temperature of 14.2 degrees. She had wandered outside and found herself locked out in -22 C weather. Although she ended up losing part of her leg, medical personnel were able to revive her without other ill effects.
Also, in February 2001, 13-month-old Erika Nordby of Edmonton survived with frostbite after wandering into the -1-degree night and ending up frozen in the snow.
However, in December 2009, a seven-year-old Nova Scotia boy died in hospital after surviving two nights lost in the frozen wilderness. James Delorey had apparently followed the family dog into the woods.