200 searching for missing toddler in Houston-area national forest

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More than 200 experienced searchers are combing Sam Houston National Forest in Waller County Sunday for a missing 3-year-old boy named Ezra who wandered away from his family’s campsite about 24 hours ago. 

Officials are turning away all but experienced groups, such as Texas Equusearch and the Sam Houston Trails Coalition. 

“We’re just using experienced searchers on this search, because it’s difficult and very thick woods,” said Tim Miller of EquuSearch. “We do not want volunteers. We’ve got plenty of experienced people out here.” 


A group of 10 men on dirt bikes, members of the trails coalition, said their president had called in the morning to organize a search, so they held a brief orientation in a parking lot before hitting the trails

“Everywhere that there’s a cut (in the brush), we’re going to look in it,” said Larry Faulk, a visitor to these woods for 40 years.

Some members of the volunteer team had been involved with multiple searches in the forest before and said they always ended well, though no one could remember a lost person as young as 3.

Search crews are on the hunt for a 3-year-old boy, only identified as Ezra, who wandered from a campsite at the Sam Houston National Forest in Walker County.

Search crews are on the hunt for a 3-year-old boy, only identified as Ezra, who wandered from a campsite at the Sam Houston National Forest in Walker County.

Some of the searchers worried it would be hard to spot a small child amid the tall underbrush, while others worried how far a toddler could wander over a night lost in the woods.

First responders from an array of agencies crisscrossed forest trails riding ATVs in search of the child. The search area centered around an approximately 4-mile stretch of Forest Road 208, a dirt road cut through dense pine woods with thick underbrush.

Volunteers with Texas Equusearch were arriving Sunday morning, equipped with walking sticks, dirt bikes or flat-bottom boats, as officials weighed how to put the extra searchers to use and a light rain began to fall.

Miller said he was using a boat with sonar to search a small lake in the area. 

“When you’ve got a small child missing, you’re looking under any bush, log, behind everything,” he said. “We’re already 24 hours out it’s very tedious, very hot and it’s difficult.”

In a video posted to Facebook, New Waverly Fire Department spokesman Jimmy Williams said that other agencies in the search include the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, local fire departments, a team of Texas Game Wardens and some personnel and vehicles from the Texas Department of Public Safety.

“A very serious situation. We’re looking for a small child lost in a very large area,” he said. 

The Sam Houston National Forest spans more than 250 square miles.

As the search wore on, worried friends and family took to Facebook to pray for Ezra’s well-being. 

“Friends, my cousin’s baby boy Ezra is missing,”  wrote Leslie Owen. “Please, if you pray, please pray this precious boy is found safe and unharmed.”

Keri Blakinger contributed to this report.  


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