‘It was the biggest sigh of relief’: Rescue team members recount finding 8-year-old safe after 2 days in wilderness

Nante Niemi was missing for more than 48 hours in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
Nante Niemi had been missing in the Porcupine Mountains since Saturday, he was rescued by a volunteer search party Monday afternoon.
Published: May. 9, 2023 at 9:27 PM EDT
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MARENISCO, Mich. & HURLEY, Wisc. (WLUC) - Relief, joy, and excitement. Those are the three words rescuers described feeling when they found 8-year-old Nante Niemi safe.

Niemi had been missing in the woods of the Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park since Saturday. He was rescued by a volunteer search party Monday afternoon.

A member of the search party was a familiar face to Niemi. His name is Eli Talsma, a senior from Hurley School District in Wisconsin.

Talsma recounted the moment he saw Niemi.

“It was the biggest sigh of relief and all the thoughts of what could’ve happened and where he is just went away,” Talsma said.

Talsma continued, “When I saw him walking over that little hill, it was just the best feeling ever.”

Hurley School District Elementary Principal Steve Lombardo said he is glad Talsma was there to assist in the search.

“Eli is a senior, he’s a leader, one of our leaders of our school district,” Lombardo said.

Lombardo continued, “He does a tremendous job with our high school mentoring program, being out in the lunchroom every day with our elementary kids, at recess with them, they all know him.”

Jake Allen, owner of Jake’s Tree Removal in Marenisco was also a member of the search party.

Allen described the plan he, Matthew Tingstad and 10 other volunteers executed to find Niemi.

“We spread the 12 men out, about 20 yards a piece, and started going slow; slowly, slowly working our way toward Matt’s GPS coordinate he gave us the day before,” Allen said.

Allen went into further detail, “I stayed in the middle just kind of shooting in a straight line with most of the guys on either side and as we started making our way, we started hitting tracks.”

Allen said they found Niemi 320 yards from Tingstad’s previous coordinates.

He explained relief washed over the group after they found the 8-year-old.

“Obviously we found the best-case scenario,” Allen said. “We were all just kind of taking it as it was, high-fiving, and happy that the plan came together.”

Click here to read more about the rescue of Nante Niemi.