Missing boy found safe in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

The MSP says a volunteer searching found him under or near a log, where’d he been the entire time, about two miles from the campsite.
Published: May. 7, 2023 at 2:12 PM EDT|Updated: May. 8, 2023 at 10:55 PM EDT
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GOGEBIC & ONTONAGON COUNTIES, Mich. (WLUC) - The eight-year-old boy missing in the Porcupine Mountains was found safe Monday afternoon, the Michigan State Police says.

Nante Niemi was camping with family members when he disappeared around 1:00 p.m. ET Saturday. About 49-and-a-half hours later, the MSP says search party volunteers found him approximately two miles from his campsite. He had braved the elements by taking shelter under a log where he was ultimately found. The eight-year-old told rescuers that he was careful not to drink water he found in the woods because he didn’t want to get sick. He did eat some snow, and he also left some muddy tracks around to help rescuers find him.

“He was found approximately 1:30 central time today by some local search and rescue personnel, sheltering under a log,” said MSP Calumet Post First Lieutenant Jason Wickstrom. “He had been circling that particular area yesterday and for part of last night.”

He was in an area that rescue teams already searched. However, because Niemi was walking in a circle around the area, rescuers didn’t spot him initially.

The rescue team that eventually found Niemi included Eli Talsma and Matthew Tingstad.

According to Tingstad, he saw and reported tracks at 6:30 P.M. Sunday, two miles from South Boundary Road. He said Niemi was found around 300 yards from this location.

“Then we proceeded, and I called up a couple of friends that I know that are pretty capable of getting around in the woods,” said Tingstad. “We devised a plan first thing this morning and we executed the plan, and we found the subject.”

During this search, Talsma says the group 50 yards to his east started calling out for Niemi and discovered him.

A friend of Niemi, he was brought in to be a familiar face if he was found.

“As soon as I heard that, I grabbed my bag that was on the ground and I started sprinting,” said Talsma. “And I get over this little, tiny hill, and all I see is this little, tiny, white sweatshirt, and he goes, ‘Eli?’ And I just ran up over to him and I gave him the biggest hug. I was so relieved once I saw him.”

Talsma used a carrier pack to transport Niemi out of the woods due to his fatigue.

On the way back, Neimi told them about what had gone on during his time alone. This included following blue marks on trees and spotting search helicopters.

“One night, he was sleeping, and he said a helicopter flew over him and woke him up,” continued Talsma. “And then the next day when he was standing and walking around, a helicopter flew over him, and he said ‘Yeah, the guy was wearing a green helmet.’”

The Michigan State Police wish to thank all of the volunteers and support services that assisted in locating this child.

The Hurley School District shared the news and photos on its Facebook page saying the second grader has been found and is doing well. Low temperatures had been in the mid to upper-40s over the past two days, while highs climbed into the mid to upper-50s. Temperatures started warming into the mid to upper-60s Monday afternoon. A little over a quarter inch of rainfall had also fallen since Saturday. The winds were relatively light.

Troopers from the Michigan State Police (MSP) Wakefield Post led the search with more than 150 search and rescue personnel from MSP and local police partners, including nine K9s. They worked in a roughly 40 square mile area on foot with some in the air and on the water as weather conditions allowed.

The terrain is very remote and hilly with a lot of standing water due to the time of the year. Several seasonal roads are still impassable because of snow depth.

The MSP thanked residents for their offers of assistance with the search but asked the public to please stay away from the area.

The MSP said a group of family members was camping in the state park. Half of the family was fishing Saturday, and half was collecting firewood. The eight-year-old boy asked to return to the nearby campsite. He left to walk back at 1:00 p.m. ET Saturday. That’s when he was last seen. The family searched on their own and then reported the situation to law enforcement around 6:00 p.m. ET Saturday.

There is no cell phone service in the area, making the search extra challenging. The MSP set up its mobile command center near the Presque Isle Campground, which is north of Wakefield and very close to Lake Superior.

According to the Michigan DNR, the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park has 60,000 acres of old-growth forest, roaring waterfalls, Lake Superior shoreline, rivers, trails and ridges, the park’s incomparable vistas make Michigan’s largest state park a popular destination for camping, hiking, snowmobiling, fishing and more.