We saw strong statements from the mother (pronouns, "I", and "my" rather than "our" and "we") but not so from the father. Will he face neglect charges? Police and child services will likely be conducting many more interviews.
NEWAYGO COUNTY, MI — Authorities said it's hard to believe Amber Rose Smith, 2, was standing and alert when searchers found her safe Wednesday after she spent 24 hours alone in the woods.
Amber wandered off from her home Barton Township home about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, prompting a large-scale overnight search. By Wednesday afternoon, 300 people, including emergency responders and 200 volunteers, had joined the effort.
A group of searchers found Amber about 1:40 p.m. Wednesday on a two-track road about 1 3/4 miles southeast from her home. The girl was calm and able to drink water provided by searchers. An ambulance transported her to a hospital in Big Rapids to be evaluated.
"It's hard to imagine how a 2 1/2-year-old can survive that distance through the woods with that kind of temperature," said Newaygo County Undersheriff Brian Boyd.
Amber apparently navigated through the thick wooded area south of 13 Mile Road. Temperatures dropped to 45 degrees overnight.
Authorities believe Amber traveled east from her home on 13 Mile Road and Cottonwood Avenue and south near Beech Avenue. She crossed at least one road, Boyd said.
"It's amazing to have the outcome that we did. It's a rarity when we're able to actually locate somebody alive, especially after 24 hours and have her be so young," said Abby Watkins, director of Newaygo County Emergency Services.
Emergency response resources from four surrounding counties assisted in the search, Watkins said. Searchers were honing in on two grid areas — northwest of Amber's home and south of the residence — when she was located.
Boyd said authorities will conduct a follow-up investigation delving into why Amber was able to walk off alone.
"Of course the fact that she did wander away from the house, that’s a concern. It’s going to be a follow up with the family and I’m sure over the next few days there will be quite a few more interviews," he said.