A nonverbal teenager who was lost in heavy woods near Los Angeles was found over the weekend after rescuers followed the sound made by his favorite objects — rocks — as he clinked them together, officials said.
The 16-year-old and his mother were on a hike with his sister in Crescenta Valley Park in Glendale, just south of Angeles National Forest, when he ran off into trees and disappeared Sunday morning, NBC Los Angeles reported.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said that after six hours of searching for the developmentally disabled teen, a deputy heard the distinct sound of clinking rocks down a steep ravine and directed a Burbank police helicopter to look into the canyon.
Eventually, that led the search team to the unnamed teen's location "in the brush 400’ over the side of the fire road," the sheriff's department's Montrose Search and Rescue Team wrote.
"Our team member went down the mountainside and made contact with the missing person. Recognizing the sensitivity of the situation, he worked to build a rapport with the teenager. After gaining the trust of the missing person, he led him up the mountain to safety. Once at the top, he was treated by paramedics and released to his family."
The Montrose Search and Rescue Team was assisted by Glendale and Burbank police, the Altadena Mountain Rescue Team and the Sierra Madre Search and Rescue Team.
Montrose Search and Rescue Deputy Steve Goldsworthy said at a news conference that he found the 16-year-old "sitting under an oak tree."
"His mom had told me he had this affection for rocks," Goldsworthy told NBC Los Angeles.
"We were hollering down in this canyon, and I heard something come back. It sounded like somebody taking two rocks and putting them together. I could hear the rocks hit, and a slight echo. I could hear that three different times.
“He will go out of his way to kick a rock, pick up a rock, throw a rock," Goldsworthy said.
"Those were, like, his favorite things, so I picked up the rock and threw it down the gully, and he looked at me, and he ended up giving me a fist bump."
The sheriff's department wrote: "Our Department was thrilled this incident had a happy ending."