The family of the seven-year-old boy who went missing from Saskatoon says the last two weeks have been a "nightmare," but they feel immense relief now that Vincent "Vinnie" Jansen and his mother, Dawn Walker, have been found.
Vincent and Walker, 48, were reported missing in Saskatoon on July 24. For days, emergency crews and volunteers combed areas near city where the pair might have been, while others prayed for their well-being and safe return.
The mother and son were found "safe and well" in Oregon City, Ore. on Friday morning, according to Saskatoon police.
"When we found out they were both safe there was sobbing, laughing, dancing, shouting, throwing of shoes and hugging … It feels as though we can finally breathe," the Jansen family wrote in a statement released Saturday morning. They said they were unable to do interviews at this time but wanted to provide an update.
"Words cannot express the feelings that we have right now. Vincent and Dawn are safe —this is all that we wished for, hoped for and prayed for over the past two weeks of hell."
The Jansen family said is was a "special kind of torture" to comb the area near the South Saskatchewan River during the search.
As we walked, scanning the lush Meewasin trail and peering into the water, we were forced to contemplate the unthinkable. Was that soiled pair of shoes discarded on the bank Vinnie's? Was that a reflection on the water surface or the body of our little boy? - Jansen family statement
"As we walked, scanning the lush Meewasin trail and peering into the water, we were forced to contemplate the unthinkable. Was that soiled pair of shoes discarded on the bank Vinnie's? Was that a reflection on the water surface or the body of our little boy?"
They said that they hoped to find Walker and her son, but, at the same time, they didn't want to find them, fearing the worst.
"The agony of not knowing if a loved one is safe is something we would never wish on anyone. Our hearts ache for all the families out there still searching for missing loved ones," they wrote.
In the statement, the family recognized the many people, organizations and law enforcement agencies that contributed to extensive the search for Walker and her son.
"We are whole again and will now take some time to enjoy the company of our son, brother, grandson, nephew and cousin. Please give your loved ones an extra big hug (or two) tonight."
The circumstances surrounding the pair's disappearance remain mysterious.
Walker, a member of the Okanese First Nation, was first reported missing to police after her friends and family hadn't heard from her — a behaviour described as out of character. She had been last seen on July 22 at a business on the 300 block of Owen Manor in Saskatoon.
On July 25, police found Walker's truck and other personal belongings at Chief Whitecap Park, just south of Saskatoon near the South Saskatchewan River. Police subsequently learned someone in the area had found Walker's purse a couple of days earlier.
Volunteers, police and multiple community organizations conducted an elaborate and extensive search for Walker and Jansen to no avail.
Police say the two were located through collaboration with the United States Department of Homeland Security, and with the help of several other law enforcement agencies in Canada and the U.S.
They say U.S. authorities are considering "any potential action as a result of an illegal entry into the U.S."
They said pending any action by U.S. authorities, Walker will be returned to Saskatoon to meet with investigators.
"As this investigation will continue to unfold rapidly a media availability is scheduled to be held on Monday," the Saskatoon Police Service said in a news release on Saturday.