Lost 11-year-old turns to Google for help getting out of N.S. woods

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Josh Hopkins strolled into the woods near his family’s home in Shelburne, N.S., with a pocketknife, phone and his Christmas present, a new BB gun.

The 11-year-old boy was eager to try out the gift but an hour into his hike, he realized he was lost.

“I started to panic,” he said. “I sat down for a minute, calmed down and I moved into this big clearing and sent my mom my coordinates.”

He had just two per cent battery power left on his phone when he Googled his GPS coordinates and sent them in a text message to his mother, Kathleen Hopkins.

Search party set out

She had no idea what the jumble of numbers meant.

Josh Hopkins message to his mother

Kathleen Hopkins says initially she didn’t know what the numbers her son texted meant. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

“I put them in Google and it gave me a pin of where he was roughly,” she said.

Neighbours and friends began searching the woods in the area of the coordinates. RCMP were called and ground search and rescue began suiting up.

“We hollered for him, there were neighbours out with dogs, friends out with dogs, but it’s so muffled. There are brooks that run through there. It was just echoing off,” said the boy’s mother.

‘Didn’t know if I was going to see him again’

With his last ounce of battery power, Josh texted his father a special message: “I love you.”

“If I was to stay out there overnight, well, I needed to at least say something nice just so they would know I was thinking of them,” said Josh.

Kathy Hopkins

Kathleen Hopkins says she was worried she’d never see her son again. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

His mother said that’s when she knew it was serious.

“I didn’t know if I was going to see him again,” she said.

Found 6 hours later

By that time, it was starting to get dark and Josh was hungry and cold. He made a shelter and ate some spruce buds. “The aftertaste was terrible,” he said.

Six hours after he left home, neighbour Tom Torak, who knows the area well, found Josh — thanks to those GPS coordinates. The boy was cold and hungry, but OK.

Josh said the experience won’t stop him from exploring the outdoors, but he has learned a few things from the ordeal.

Next time he’ll take a friend and a fully charged phone.

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Lost 11-year-old turns to Google for help getting out of N.S. woods

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