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Published: 10/18/2007

Autistic hiker, 18, found alive in W.Va. woods, reunites with family

ASSOCIATED PRESS

CHARLESTON, W.Va. An autistic 18-year-old lost in the wilderness for four days was found alive today, weak but apparently fine, and reunited with his family, searchers said.

To the best of our knowledge, he was just hungry and thirsty and fatigued, Jim Reneau, one of the nine searchers who found Jacob Allen, said at a news conference at the command post near Davis, about 90 miles south of Pittsburgh.

Allen, who wandered away from his parents while hiking Sunday, was found lying in a clearing about a mile from where his hat was found Monday.

Allen, who has the mental capacity of a 3- or 4-year-old, opened his eyes and rolled over to meet his rescuers when Reneau s son, Jeremy Reneau, called out his name.

He was very quiet, he was nonverbal, said Jeremy Reneau, 25, the first to spot Allen. But you could tell by his body language he was hungry.

Rescuers fed him candy bars and peanut butter sandwiches and tried to walk him out of the wooded Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, part of the Monongahela National Forest. When he became too tired, they carried him out on a litter, Reneau said.

The family is all together, search group spokesman Chris Stadelman said. As soon as they heard the report he was alive and doing fairly well, they gathered in a prayer circle.

The Inter-Mountain newspaper reported that Allen was taken to Davis Memorial Hospital, but a spokeswoman for the hospital declined to comment.

I think the whole state s relieved, said Lara Ramsburg, spokeswoman for Gov. Joe Manchin, who visited the Allen family Wednesday night. We re all relieved for him and his family.

Allen wandered away from his parents Sunday afternoon. Hundreds of volunteers and trained professionals had been combing the woods, calling for him to come to them for candy bars, ice cream and other food.

Allen had no food or water with him, but Stadelman had said there were natural water sources in the search area, which consists of about 10 square miles of often steep and brush-covered terrain.

Overnight temperatures dropped to as low as 38 degrees on the nights Allen was missing. He was wearing hiking boots, a long-sleeved T-shirt, a wind jacket and wind pants.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com



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