N.S. family thankful after four-year-old found safe in woods in aftermath of Fiona

Grady MacKinnon, centre, with his parents and older sister in Springville, N.S., on Monday.  (CBC - image credit)
Grady MacKinnon, centre, with his parents and older sister in Springville, N.S., on Monday. (CBC - image credit)

Four-year-old Grady MacKinnon is safe and sound at home with his family.

On Saturday, after post-tropical storm Fiona barrelled through Nova Scotia's Pictou County, he wandered off into the woods. His parents said they were outside their home in rural Springville, N.S., picking up after the storm with Grady.

"You see these stories on the news, and you think, 'Oh these parents weren't watching their kids, they weren't out with their kids.' And we were out with them and it was a minute we didn't have our eyes on him," Gillian MacKinnon, Grady's mother, told CBC News.

"A minute led to 15 hours of just pure panic and torture."

Gillian said Grady went missing around 5 p.m. on Saturday.

"It's ten acres of really thick wooded old trees and we searched for a good 20 minutes and we couldn't hear him, we couldn't see him," she said.

Gillian and her husband, Adam, knew something was wrong and went to a neighbour's house and called 911. By 5:45 p.m., she said there was a "full-blown search."

"He's four and he's in the woods the day after a hurricane with fallen trees and tons of water down and these are unforgiving circumstances. Anything could have happened," Gillian said.

"You're in the woods for the whole night just praying that you'll come across something — good or bad — like you just want to know where he is. There's just no words to describe as a parent the guilt you feel. I wouldn't wish that on anybody."

Grady was found on Sunday morning by his grandfather, Gary Murray, and local paramedic Mary Kenny. The family said Kenny went with the grandfather to make sure he was safe too.

Gillian said her father, who is almost 70, is a hero.

"The two of them trucked through the most awful terrain to find him and I find it hard to believe [Grady] made it through that, let alone they made it through that and they just bought him home," Gillian said.

Adam said he was told Grady was "happy" when he was found.

"He was strolling through the woods after spending the night there in the cold and pitch black, just kind of strolling along," Adam said.

"...[Grady is] strong. He must get that from his mother's side, he doesn't get that from me I can tell you that right now."

Gillian said police estimated Grady had wandered about 10 to 15 kilometers in the woods.

The family said they are grateful to the community members who dropped everything to help search for Grady, even after the storm had knocked out power and water for nearly everyone.

Adam described the relief he felt when he heard one of Gillian's friends calling his name to tell him Grady had been found.

"[Gillian and I] both did a good job of holding it together until we found him. Once we knew he was home safe, that's when we fell apart. He was home in the tub by the time I got home," Adam said.