WINTER SPRINGS, Fla. - Police have confirmed that they've found 11-year-old Nadia Bloom alive, but dehydrated and covered in mosquito bites.
Bloom was taken to a hospital in nearby Longwood, Fla., where she will be evaluated and treated for dehydration and insect bites, said Winter Springs Police Chief Kevin Brunelle.
"If I never believed in miracles, I sure do now," Brunelle said during an afternoon news conference. Brunelle said Nadia told rescuers two things: "I'm glad you guys found me" and "I can't believe you guys rescued me." Her sister has said Bloom, who has an autism-related disorder called Asperger syndrome, may have gone into the dense woods hoping to make a nature video.
It took nearly two hours for rescuers to carry Nadia out of the thick brush and swamp. It wasn't police who located her. James King, who goes to church with Nadia's family, found her Tuesday morning in a dry patch in the middle of the swamp and called authorities.
King climbed a tree and unfurled toilet paper in an attempt to draw attention to where they were. Brunelle said he dispatched a helicopter to look for King and Nadia, but it didn't work. Using cell phone signals, authorities found King and Nadia.
"Mr. King is a hero right now," said Brunelle. "He led us to her." Brunelle added that detectives are questioning both King and Nadia for more details on the rescue and how the little girl spent her time while she was missing. Brunelle did say that Nadia told them that she had not talked to anyone since going into the woods on Friday.
Authorities began searching for Nadia in wooded areas near Lake Jesup, one of the most alligator-filled lakes in Central Florida. The fifth-grader was last seen riding her bike on Friday, and authorities became alarmed when they found her bike and helmet. She did have a backpack with her.
Shortly after word came that Nadia was alive, her father briefly spoke to the media. "It all came so fast and it just shows the compassion of the human spirit. It should give everybody encouragement," her father, Jeff Bloom, told reporters after rescue crews lifted her into an ambulance. When asked how he felt, Bloom said: "I can't even describe it. Let's give the glory to God."
Authorities said that they believed the 11-year-old may have ventured into the woods after she was inspired by a character named Lanie in book in the American Girl Doll series. It's believed that Bloom had the book with her when she disappeared; authorities believe that she may have been trying to emulate the book's adventurous main character, who explores the outdoors, goes camping in her backyard and photographs wildlife. Authorities have yet to confirm this theory since Bloom was found.