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9-year-old Idaho boy found safe by father after being separated from family in Utah Mountains


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EVANSTON, Summit County — When an Idaho father heard his 9-year-old son had gone missing during a hike with extended family, he knew what he had to do.

The dad immediately traveled down to Utah and arrived where his son, Stratton Joshua Wright, had last been seen about 3 a.m. Then, reports he conducted his own search — which proved successful when the father found his son in an open field on Thursday morning, Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez said.

Sometime around 8 p.m. Wednesday, Stratton became separated from his uncle, siblings and cousins during a hike near Bear Lake in the Henrys Fork drainage area on the northern slope of the mountains, officials said.

Throughout the night he tried to identify where he was but when he realized he was lost he knew he needed to stay put for the night.

Despite the professional efforts made by authorities — including helicopters, trained search and rescue crews and horses — the young boy was ultimately found by his dad.

Martinez said the young boy was smart — he knew he needed to conserve energy for the next day and ended up finding a safe place 5 miles from the trailhead near Bear Lake to spend the night.

In the morning, Stratton ended up finding an open field where he decided to wait since he knew people would likely be looking for him.

“Just a remarkable young individual — he did everything right,” Martinez said.

Sometime later, Stratton saw a man walking toward him and began walking to meet him.

Once he got closer, Stratton realized it was his father and he ran to him, leading to a tearful reunion.

Martinez said Stratton’s father spotted his son after walking out of a wooded area and knew it was him instantly.

“I guess that’s a testament to a father-son bond, because he was able to find him faster than we were as the professionals,” Martinez said at an afternoon news conference.

Even though Stratton had a pretty intense night, he actually told his father and authorities he wanted to continue camping with his family for the rest of the weekend — however Martinez said the young boy ended up returning home with his father to be reunited with the rest of his family.

Aside from being slightly dehydrated and tired, Stratton was in good spirits and healthy — in fact, the first thing he wanted was a Twix candy bar, Martinez said.

Martinez said with the Fourth of July holiday approaching, a lot of people will be enjoying Utah’s backcountry areas.

He urged parents to talk with their children about what to do if they become separated from the group — stay put, find an open area and wait for rescue crews.

“This is a great example of a young man who stayed calm,” Martinez said. “He was self aware and he knew what he needed to do to be found as quick as possible.”