'Christmas Miracle': Missing Florida Brother and Sister Found Safe in Swampy Shelter
Braxton Williams, 6, and Bri’ya Williams, 5, were rescued by Jacksonville authorities after being reported missing on Sunday afternoon
Two young siblings who were reported missing in Florida over the weekend have been found, safe and sound, according to local authorities.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office responded to reports of the vanished children, 6-year-old Braxton Williams and 5-year-old Bri’ya Williams, on Sunday afternoon. Officers were informed that the siblings were last seen playing outside in front of their home earlier that morning.
After the kids had gone missing for two days, on Tuesday, the department announced the good news that the two children had been located. The siblings were found inside an abandoned, dilapidated shelter, located in the swampy part of a wooded area. The breakthrough came when a member of the search team heard a child’s voice, which led them to discover the young brother and sister.
Authorities said the kids appeared “happy and talkative” when they were found, and that they requested cheese pizza after they were initially given water and candy.
“It’s the outcome we hoped for,” Sheriff Mike Williams said during a press conference on Tuesday. “At the end of the day, we work hard on each and every one of these cases and they all have a different outcome — that’s just the way it works sometimes — so I’m incredibly grateful that the outcome we got today is the one that we got.”
It’s currently unclear how long the children were in the structure or how they ended up in the woods, though it’s believed they wandered there, according to the sheriff’s office.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry celebrated the news on Twitter, calling the successful search mission “a Christmas miracle.”
“Overjoyed to hear that Braxton & Bri’ya have been found & are safe. This is a Christmas miracle,” he wrote. “I’m thankful for the tireless efforts of first responders & compassionate members of our city. My prayers continue for this family & I’m so grateful for this positive outcome.”
Sheriff Williams shared a photo of the rescuers with the kids shortly after the discovery, writing alongside the picture, “Today was a good day!”
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“It was a major team effort in rescuing these two little kids….but these firemen wouldn’t let go of them till they got to the hospital,” wrote the Jacksonville Fire & Rescue Department on Twitter, acknowledging the hard work put in by crew members.
Amid the investigation, authorities asked community members for information that could help locate the siblings.
Search teams scoured more than 20 bodies of water, 130 acres and 400 local houses, and at one point earlier this week, the sheriff’s department was trying to track down a white, 4-door vehicle believed to be driven by an older, white man who audibly played children’s music.
Investigators now believe that suspect is no longer involved and was simply one of many potential leads explored during the search period.