(MIDLAND CITY, Ala.) — The 5-year-old boy held hostage in a nearly week-long standoff in Alabama is in good spirits and apparently unharmed after being reunited with his family at a hospital, according to his family and law enforcement officials.
The boy, identified only as Ethan, was rescued by the FBI Monday afternoon after they rushed the underground bunker where suspect Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, was holding him. Dykes was killed in the raid and the boy was taken away from the bunker in an ambulance.
Ethan’s thrilled relatives told ABC’s Good Morning America on Tuesday that he seemed “normal as a child could be” after what he went through and has been happily playing with his toy dinosaur.
“He’s happy to be home,” Ethan’s great uncle Berlin Enfinger told GMA. “He’s very excited and he looks good.”
“If I could, I would do cartwheels all the way down the road,” Ethan’s aunt Debra Cook said. “I was ecstatic. Everything just seemed like it was so much clearer. You know, we had all been walking around in a fog and everyone was just excited. There’s no words to put how we felt and how relieved we were.”
Cook said that Ethan has not yet told them anything about what happened in the bunker and they know very little about Dykes.
What the family does know is that they are overjoyed to have their “little buddy” back.
“He’s a special child, 90 miles per hour all the time,” Cook said. “[He’s] a very, very loving child. When he walks in the room, he just lights it up.”
Officials have remained tight-lipped about the raid, citing the ongoing investigation.
“I’ve been to the hospital,” FBI Special Agent Steve Richardson told reporters Monday night. “I visited with Ethan. He is doing fine. He’s laughing, joking, playing, eating, the things that you would expect a normal 5- to 6-year-old young man to do. He’s very brave, he’s very lucky, and the success story is that he’s out safe and doing great.”
Ethan is expected to be released from the hospital later Tuesday and head home where he will be greeted by birthday cards from his friends at school. Ethan will celebrate his sixth birthday on Wednesday.
Officials were able to insert a high-tech camera into the 6-by-8-foot bunker to monitor Dykes’ movements, and they became increasingly concerned that he might act out, a law enforcement source with direct knowledge told ABC News on Monday. FBI special agents were positioned near the entrance of the bunker and used an explosive charge to gain access and neutralize Dykes.
“Within the past 24 hours, negotiations deteriorated and Mr. Dykes was observed holding a gun,” Richardson said. “At this point, the FBI agents, fearing the child was in imminent danger, entered the bunker and rescued the child.”
Richardson said it “got tough to negotiate and communicate” with Dykes, but declined to give any specifics.
After the raid was complete, FBI bomb technicians checked the property for improvised explosive devices, the FBI said in a written statement Monday afternoon.
The FBI had created a mock bunker near the site and had been using it to train agents for different scenarios to get Ethan out, sources told ABC News.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Jose Pagliery, CNN
Stephen Collinson, CNN