‘Absolute joy’: Police rescuers describe moment they found missing boy AJ Elfalak

He survived three nights in the bush in temperatures that dipped as low as three degrees Celsius. 

PolAir Tactical Flight Officer Jonathan Smith said he felt “absolute joy” when he saw the boy sitting in a puddle drinking muddy water from a creek.

“As soon as I saw the image of him on the screen I was just taken aback and we straight away knew it was him,” Senior Constable Smith said on Tuesday.

‘We prayed’

AJ went missing from his family’s sprawling property at Putty about 11.45am on Friday.

On Monday, AJ’s dad Anthony Elfalak told media his wife Kelly visited the Saint Shenouda Monastery during the search.

“We prayed this morning, my wife just came back from the monastery and prayed and look what happens,” he told reporters shortly after his son was found alive.

The moment AJ’s family found out he was safe

More than 130 people searched the family’s property, with volunteers helping police on foot and on dirt bikes.

A spokesperson from the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District confirmed two people at the Saint Shenouda Monastery tested positive for COVID-19 where some of the search party had looked for AJ.

Authorities say those individuals did not come into contact with the confirmed COVID-19 cases – although all people who were at the Monastery are now in isolation. No further positive test results have been returned. 

‘He gripped on’

Greg Chalmers was the SES volunteer who first made contact with the boy.

“Here’s this beautiful little boy, kneeling in the water trying to get a drink,” he told Sydney radio 2GB on Tuesday.

“It was fantastic to absolutely see this little boy was actually alive.

A supplied screengrab obtained on Monday, 6 September, 2021, of PolAir locating three-year-old Anthony "AJ" Elfalak.


“I put my hand on that little boy and he looked around and gave me the biggest smile.

“It was incredible that he was actually still alive. He gripped on and gripped on and just wouldn’t let go.”

Inquiry underway

AJ remained in hospital overnight for observation and was home with his family on Tuesday.

The Elfalak family issued a statement late on Monday expressing gratitude to everyone who helped in the search for AJ.

“AJ is fine,” the statement said. “Hold your kids close. Please give our family the privacy to appreciate what we have.”

NSW Police Superintendent Tracy Chapman said investigations were ongoing into how AJ made his way so far from home.

“From a policing perspective we will still be continuing our inquiry to understand what has occurred over the past three days,” she said.

“I know everyone has lots of questions.”

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