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Josh Hopkins and Barrington and Area Search and Rescue Coordinator Richard d’Entremont met for the first time last week since the young boy was lost in the woods on Boxing Day 2016. Josh credited things he had learned from d’Entremont in helping him to stay safe and calm.
Josh Hopkins is 11 years old and a survivor. His quick thinking while lost in the woods in December ensured his safety. Now he’s being recognized for his smarts.
Josh will be the recipient of a certificate from the minister of the Nova Scotia Emergency Management Office recognizing the youth’s response in the face of danger.
On Boxing Day 2016, Hopkins zipped up his new camouflage coat with its hunter orange lining, grabbed the airsoft rifle he received as a Christmas gift and told his mother he would be testing the gun out in the woods behind their house, just outside Shelburne. Along with him he had his cellphone and a small pocketknife.
It was around noon when he set out to spend about an hour in the woods.
“I was going to come back when my mom messaged me,” he says.
He thought he could take a shortcut but quickly realized he was lost.
“I didn’t know where I was,” says Josh.
His phone battery, while full when he left for the woods, had drained of power due to a faulty battery. Now lost, he realized he only had a small percentage of battery power left.
He quickly tapped into Google and searched for a website that told him his coordinates. He copied the numbers and texted them to his mother.
“Where are you?” typed his mother Kathleen Hopkins.
Josh then typed his coordinates.
“What does that mean?” she wrote.
“Means I’m lost,” he typed back. “(I got to go) save power 2%.”
Josh didn’t panic. He remembered when Barrington and Area Search and Rescue coordinator Richard d’Entremont had visited his Grade 4 class a year back. One of the main points that rang out for him was to “hug a tree.”
D’Entremont has spent many visits teaching Grade 4 students throughout Shelburne County what to do when lost in the woods.
“He did what he was supposed to do,” says d’Entremont. “If you don’t know where you’re going, don’t go anywhere.”
He says it is much easier for search and rescue teams to find a missing person if they stay put when lost.
“Would you rather be found in two or three hours or two or three days?” he says.
D’Entremont teaches the Adventure Smart program to around 200 local children each year. He was very happy to hear Josh remembered what he had taught him. Last week he got the chance to talk to Josh for the first time since he had gotten lost.
“If I can save one life then I did my job and you Josh are number one,” he told him.
In the woods that day in late 2016, Josh continued to put to use what he had learned from d’Entremont and also what he had learned watching the History Channel.
He made a lean-to shelter by cutting boughs from the trees with his pocketknife, remembering to lay down a covering to keep him up off of the ground. He also turned his coat inside out so that the orange was exposed for the people he knew would be searching for him.
At first the weather was not horrible for December but then “once it got dark it got colder and colder and colder,” Josh remembers.
He says he was not really scared, and had faith someone would find him eventually.
It was shortly after dark that he heard his name being called.
A search party of police, canines, search and rescue, firefighters, family, friends and neighbours had been out frantically looking for Josh since his mother first got the text saying he was lost.
Although Josh wasn’t scared during his six-hour ordeal, when he first heard the voice of a neighbour, Tom Torak, calling out for him he did get very emotional.
“A bunch of stuff lifted off of me,” he admits. The weight on his shoulders that came with keeping himself safe was finally being lifted.
Josh also was reluctant to immediately walk towards Torak, as they were separated by a brook and Josh didn’t know how deep it was. He was only wearing sneakers. They eventually found a narrow and safe spot for him to cross.
Josh says he is not afraid to venture into the woods despite his ordeal, but now he is much more prepared in case something were to happen.
His survival bag keeps growing to include flashlights, a backup power supply for his phone, energy bars, walkie-talkies and a whistle. He also knows to wear waterproof boots instead of sneakers.
D’Entremont says kids and adults alike could learn from the survival skills Josh displayed that day.
“It doesn’t matter if you are three or 103, the rules are the same,” says d’Entremont.
Shelburne County youth Josh Hopkins received a certificate of recognition and some EMO items last week for keeping his wits and using his smarts while lost in the woods on Boxing Day in December 2016. Included in this photo are members of the Barrington Ground Search and Rescue team that helped bring Josh home in December. The presentation took place March 13 at the Shelburne Curling Club. Pictured (l-r) are: Minister of EMO Zach Churchill, Sarah Clarke, Kelley Baker, Jane Ann Doane, Mark Doane, Richard d’Entremont and Josh Hopkins.
©Communications Nova Scotia
Adventure Smart Rules for outdoor survival tips
• Carry a device to call or alert others to an emergency situation.
• Be prepared and always carry the essentials. If necessary be ready to stay overnight.
• Complete a trip plan and leave it with a friend. The trip plan explains your destination and route you are taking.
• Never hike alone.
• Do not panic, maintain a positive mental attitude.
• Stay where you are. People who carry on after they become lost usually get further from the trail and further from people who are looking for them.
• Use a signalling device. Blowing a whistle, lighting a fire and staying visible will help searchers find you.
• Build or seek shelter. Protect yourself from the rain, wind and excessive sun, but in daylight make sure you are visible.
• Remember: The most common mistake is believing that it could never happen to you.