Advertisement

The Australian public has been amazed at the miraculous story of three-year-old AJ Elfalak who survived three days and three cold nights in rugged bushland near Putty, 150km north-west of Sydney.

Specialist bush survival experts have stated one of the reasons ‘miracle boy’ AJ Elfalak coped so well while lost in bushland was because his autism kept him in a calm state of mind.

Survival expert Bob Cooper, who works with the SAS, added AJ’s youth was also an advantage: “Children are better than adults at surviving sometimes because they haven’t got the preconceived idea of what the bush is like.”

“When they feel tired they sleep, when they’re cold they seek shelter, when they’re thirsty they drink,” Cooper said.

“A human can survive for three weeks without food provided they can keep warm, drink water and stay safe from the elements,” he noted.

AJ was found with minor injuries only

Little AJ was found with some minor scratches and bruising to his body. He’d been bitten by ants and had a case of nappy rash, but he was otherwise in high spirits – all of which seems to point to the truth in what Cooper and other experts have said.

Wild conspiracy theories continue to circulate on social media concerning AJ’s disappearance saying it was staged and that a child could not survive alone with food or water in such rugged terrain – where overnight temperatures were as low as two degrees.

But detectives on Strike Force Jaylang – which was set up to investigate the circumstances of the toddler’s disappearance – said AJ’s injuries and condition when he was found were all consistent with him being in the bush the entire time.

Police have worked with bush survival experts to develop a full picture of AJ’s time away from home – and they suggest his autism actually largely helped him maintain a calm state of mind.

“The reality is he didn’t know he was lost… so he wasn’t scared, he didn’t panic,” an investigator said.

“If he was tired, he slept… he had access to water, which is a big thing for survival in the bush.”

The toddler ate ravenously when rescued

When AJ was rescued and loaded into a waiting ambulance, paramedics said he ravenously ate an entire pizza and “guzzled” water – typical traits of someone who hasn’t eaten for days.

“He was starving… it’s all consistent with him being in the bush the entire time,” a paramedic said.

The Child Mind Institute says children with autism often have ‘a weaker sense of danger’ than others and enjoy exploration.

They’re also more likely to ‘wander off’ or look to remove themselves from overwhelming sensory experiences.

Epic family party to celebrate his rescue

With AJ safe and sound – back in the arms of his mother – his family hosted an epic party to celebrate.

The local store was cleared out of all booze in stock, a cow was freshly slaughtered and carved up for a BBQ and the music blared.

Grey Gums Cafe owner Kim Grace watched on as all the alcohol she had left in stock – about $700 worth – was packed into a ute and taken back to the Elfalek’s property.

In the back seat was a freshly slaughtered sheep, which was being taken back to AJ’s godfather Alan Hashem, who is renowned for his ‘famous’ lamb.

Meanwhile back at the farm, two freshly-killed cows were already on the barbecue and AJ’s elated dad had extended an invitation to the party to anybody back in locked-down Sydney who was prepared to make the journey.

“See that hill back there,” he told media at his home. “There’s going to be a big party on that hill. Anybody who wants to come on down from Sydney is welcome.”

Celebrations were well underway on Tuesday afternoon at the Yengo Drive property in Putty – and the party lasted into the night.

AJ returned from Maitland Hospital later that evening

AJ and his mother returned home from Maitland Hospital later that night – telling the guests party time was over because the toddler needed to sleep.

AJ, meanwhile, watched on from the safety of his home, clinging to his mother.

Relatives say he is yet to leave her side.

A professional tracker has been brought in to help

The Elfalak family is relying on the opinion of a professional bush tracker to help them understand how the toddler spent three nights alone in the unforgiving terrain behind their home.

Professional tracker Jake Cassar has been at the family home for some time,

AJ was found sitting in a shallow, muddy creek at the base of what appeared to be a barely visible path, but the question remains as to how he made it down such a steep track safely.

Cassar explained it was very possible that, even with hundreds of volunteers, little AJ avoided detection while in the bush.

He said search parties tended to stay in straight lines and follow a near perfect trajectory from point A to point B, whereas somebody who is lost intuitively does the opposite.

“When we’re lost, we almost always walk at a slight curve to the right or left, therefore it’s easy to travel in directions that might be missed by search parties,” Cassar said.

He hoped to provide the family some further guidance as to whether AJ likely wandered off on his own or was abducted, which is what the family initially believed.

Image: NSW Police

This article first appeared on Over60.