An "emergency search" is underway in eastern North Carolina, where a 3-year-old boy is believed to have wandered into thick woods behind his grandmother's home while playing outside with two other kids. Those two came inside the home in Ernul around 1:45pm Tuesday without Casey Lynn Hathaway, who was not properly dressed for cold weather, reports WSOC. The grandmother then fruitlessly searched the area for 45 minutes before calling 911. "We are doing everything we can to find this child, utilizing all resources at our disposal," Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes said Wednesday, expressing concern about deep water ditches, sinkholes, and ponds in an area encompassing "extremely rough terrain" and a "lot of thorns."
The FBI, Marines, and state investigators are involved in the search, which was continued overnight into Thursday morning, per WITN. Hundreds of volunteers were expected to rejoin trained searchers at 8am, per the Charlotte Observer. Up to 600 volunteers had scoured the area Wednesday—so many that authorities warned others would be turned away, per WSOC. Authorities are treating this as a missing child case, noting there's nothing to suggest the boy isn't simply lost and that family members are cooperating. Locals in the area of Toler Road are asked to check property, buildings, and vehicles for the boy, described as 25 pounds, 28 inches tall, with blond or strawberry blond hair and brown eyes. Casey was last seen wearing a blue coat and dark-colored pants. (Read more missing child stories.)