Originally published July 11, 2016 IRON RIDGE, Wis. (WBAY) – Three boys last seen Sunday afternoon in Dodge County have been found safe.
Rescuers found 16-year-olds Zachary Heron and Tate Rose and 15-year-old Samuel Lein inside an old iron mine and walked them out of the woods around 12:30 Monday afternoon. Action 2 News reporter Emily Matesic was there as the boys came out.
Rescuers said the boys had a light from a mobile phone and a Bic lighter, but both had run out, and the boys were in the dark for several hours. They had stayed where they were, and were hoarse from yelling for help. They said the boys did the right thing staying together.
The boys are now with their families, who released a lengthy statement Monday evening:
"At this time it’s so hard to find words adequate to express how incredibly blessed we feel to have our boys back with us safe in our homes. We along with our family and friends went straight to the Lord God to ask for the safe return of Sam, Zach and Tate.
We want to express our utmost gratitude for the countless Emergency Service Workers who united together to bring our boys home safely. We will be forever grateful to each and every one of you for working tirelessly throughout the night and the heat of the day to do this. It was amazing to watch both the families and different organizations supporting each other and seamlessly putting a plan together.
We ask that you respect the privacy of our families from this point forward and this is our final statement in regards to this incident. Please know that we are eternally grateful to all of you.
Respectfully the families of Sam Lein, Zach Heron and Tate Rose
“There were a lot of hugs and a lot of tears,” when the boys were reunited with their families, Sheriff Dale Schmidt said.
The Dodge County Sheriff’s Office says searchers were looking in woods and around the Neda iron ore mine tunnels for the missing boys after they were reported missing after 9 o’clock Sunday night.
The boys went for a bicycle ride late Sunday afternoon and didn’t return. Their bicycles were found in the area of the former mines but authorities didn’t know if the boys were able to get inside. They couldn’t rule it out, either, “teens being teens,” Sheriff Dale Schmidt said.
The boys admitted they went into the mines to go exploring around 3 p.m. and got lost. They spent the night in the tunnels.
The sheriff dismissed speculation the boys became lost while playing the popular app Pokemon Go.
First responders used search dogs, drones and thermal imaging cameras.
The search was south of the city of Mayville, southeast of Horicon.
Sheriff Schmidt described the area as hazardous, and the tunnels as a four-mile maze. “It’s very tough. You have emergency responders trying not to get hurt,” Sheriff Schmidt said. “We’re doing everything we can to keep them safe, including shoring up mines before they go inside.”
Searchers asked the public to stay away from the search area because of the hazards.