Video: Family of autistic teen recall his rescue

updated 10/19/2007 10:33:34 PM ET 2007-10-20T02:33:34

An autistic teen who was lost for four days in the West Virginia wilderness was released from a hospital Friday, a day after his rescue from the rugged, foliage-filled terrain.

Jacob Allen’s sister, Brittany, waved to onlookers as he was rolled out of Davis Memorial Hospital in a wheelchair. The 18-year-old was given a clean bill of health by the doctors who examined him, said Chris Stadelman, a spokesman for the search effort.

What happened to Allen during his four days in the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area in the Monongahela National Forest may never be known. Allen does not speak, and uses body language and pictures to communicate with his family.

From what rescue crews have been able to piece together, Allen didn’t stray too far from where his parents lost sight of him Sunday while hiking the Boar’s Nest Trail in the Randolph County section of the wilderness area.

He was found — hungry and thirsty but otherwise in good shape — on Thursday afternoon. He was curled up asleep, beneath the protective canopy of a rhododendron.

“The most frustrating thing, given how well this went, is that we don’t have any idea and probably won’t have any idea” about where he went or what he did, said Stadelman. “Ultimately we don’t care if we know where he was because we know where he is. That’s home.”

Mom credits God

Image: Jacob Allen
Jacob Allen, 18, was missing in the Monongahela National Forest for four days.

Searchers feared for his safety during the time he was lost because of the cold. Overnight temperatures dropped to as low as 38 degrees the first night Allen was in the woods, wearing only a wind jacket and wind pants over his T-shirt and hiking boots. But as the days wore on, temperatures slowly began to rise.

“Every day, it just got warmer and warmer and warmer,” Karen Allen told NBC’s “Today” show on Friday morning. “It was like God breathed some warm breath on us here in the mountains.”

Authorities don’t believe he ate anything during his ordeal, and his mother said he was alert and hungry after his rescue. He ate two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before he was even out of the woods Thursday, she said.

Later that night in the hospital, he wolfed down some broth and Jell-O, said Stadelman. Before he was released, Allen also had eaten chicken and french fries, french toast, bacon, oatmeal and three servings of ice cream, he said.

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