‘I thought I was going to bury my son’
The parents of a three-year-old boy who was missing in dense WA bushland for 12 hours before his grandfather found him cold and hungry say they had "lost all hope" and feared they would have to bury their son.
James "Jimmy" O'Reilly disappeared while playing outside a holiday house in Yallingup, about 250km south of Perth, on Saturday morning, sparking a search involving police, SES, volunteers, neighbours, a helicopter and drone.
Jimmy's uncle and Poppy, who had vowed not to give up the search, found the boy just after 7pm, about 1km from where he vanished.
"When he (Poppy) brought him back, he said 'I told you I wouldn't give up. I told you I'd bring him back to you'," Jimmy's tearful mother Michelle Buckley said on Sunday.
She also cried as she described her concerns during the search that Jimmy would be scared and cold in the harsh conditions.
"I didn't think we were going to find him alive. I thought I was going to have to bury my son," she said.
Jimmy's father Chris O'Reilly, who walked about 20km with their dog in search of his son, said he had never felt so sick in his stomach.
"The hours just kept going past. Honestly, I just broke down out there on my own," he said.
"It was gut wrenching. One of the worst experiences of my life.
"I'd lost all hope. I'd broken down."
Ms Buckley said Jimmy had cuddled with his father that morning before going outside as she cleaned.
"It was literally like five minutes. I went down there to go grab him and he was gone," she said.
"I was screaming his name and I couldn't hear anything.
"I just couldn't understand how in that short amount of time he got that far that he couldn't hear me yelling his name.
"He must have just bolted after a kangaroo or something, I don't know.
"He would have just kept walking, trying to find his way.
"He did see the helicopter but he said it was very loud, so I think he might have been a bit scared of it."
Mr O'Reilly said he wept tears of joy when they heard the good news that Jimmy was safe.
"He was wet and cold when they found him," Mr O'Reilly said.
"He basically walked out of it (with) barely a scratch on him.
"I felt like the world had just started spinning again, like it felt right again."
The first thing a hungry Jimmy ate was a Snickers bar and then some Oreos.
His sugar fix was followed by a ham and cheese sandwich, some yoghurt and apple juice, then he fell asleep.
Mr O'Reilly said the family's weekend getaway had turned into a nightmare but the final outcome was a miracle.
"It turned into a nightmare, a living nightmare. I would not wish it on anybody. It was just terrible," he said.
"I think somebody was looking out for my family.
"My grandmother just passed recently and she was there with him and helping him, I think."
The relieved parents thanked everyone for standing behind them during their ordeal, including strangers on social media and those who travelled to help with the search.
"That type of support you can't match, that's only being an Australian," Mr O'Reilly said.
"That's how I felt about that. I felt pride.
"That's a community looking for your boy."
Originally published as 'I thought I was going to bury my son'