CBSN

Lost Toddler Found After Dramatic Search

It was truly like trying to find a needle in a haystack: there was a frantic search for a little boy missing inside a giant paper recycling plant in Phoenix, Ariz. The boy had wandered off after his father brought his family there to pick something up.

It took more than six hours before rescuers located the child, and another six hours to rescue him. Phoenix Police Officer Mary Zielinski pulled the boy to safety and joined The Early Show to talk about the frightening ordeal and rescue.

"It was just miraculous," Zielinski told The Early Show co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez. "When they started searching for him, like I said, it took over six hours and as we're searching, you've got four hours, five hours, six hours, and we didn't hear a thing and then, finally, when we were looking through the voids of the huge paper stack, I pulled away the paper and I just saw that little hand come crawling out to me and it was just miraculous. It was just a wonderful, wonderful feeling."

Asked to describe what searchers were up against, Zielinski said, "Well, one of our S.W.A.T. officers who was actually on top of the stack described it as being, if you can imagine, a large haystack. But it's actually bales of compressed paper and each bale weighed, they said, approximately 1,500 to 2,000 pounds and they were stacked four-high. It was as large as I'd say a big bus."

"And from the sides of the stack, you can't see in, but I guess on top, the S.W.A.T. officers that were working up there said that there was actual voids that dropped all the way down to the actual cement at the bottom," she explained.

The night of the rescue was cold, damp and dark.

"I know and it had rained here in Phoenix, the paper, it was wet and what you don't see is the huge pile of loose paper that it took to actually get to that stack. That's where all the effort came from all of the police officers and the fire personnel. They actually had to move all that wet paper. It was huge, to actually get to that stack so we could get the forklift in there to move those actual individual bales of paper because we couldn't," Zielinski said.

Asked what the little boy was doing while the rescue was underway, Zielinski said, "At the beginning, we had no idea where he was. We just went by what the children said where they actually last saw him and who was instrumental was a officer who is on my squad, a canine handler, and he used his dog Cyrus to search the area to begin with and Cyrus gave alerts towards that stack. As well as our fire rescue dogs indicated that he probably is in that stack somewhere. But we didn't hear a peep from him, not a sound. We used the thermal imaging cameras and one of our S.W.A.T. officers could see a figure, but it dissipated, so as if he was moving around down there. But like I said, after it got to be four, five, six hours, and we didn't hear a sound, we hoped for the best, but, you know, we feared for the worse. There was a lot of prayers going on that night."

When he finally got out, Zielinski said the toddler didn't make a peep. "He reached out to me and Igrabbed him and I just, like I said, the mamma bear, you know, came out of me and I just grabbed him and pulled him out and he would held him as tight as I could. He was whimpering and trembling, he was so cold. I looked at the fire paramedic and he looked at me and said 'Get him to the office so we can treat him.' We're all just rushing to the office because it was warm inside there and I just sat him on the chair area let the firemen work the magic and they treated him."