THE mother of a Beechworth boy missing in wet and cold conditions for about 18 hours has thanked those who joined the search for him.
Ben Dean, 6, was barefoot when found by Wodonga man John McLennan and Ben Hill about 11.20am on Thursday.
He had wandered off from his parents’ home on the Beechworth Chiltern Road as his mother, Nadia David, prepared dinner on Wednesday night.
It sparked a major search operation fuelled by an appeal on Facebook, with people travelling to the scene to look for the young boy.
Ben has Down syndrome and is high functioning, and had walked to McFeeters Road, about a kilometre from his home.
Ms David said despite the ordeal, her son appeared to be fine though had hypothermia.
“He’s doing quite well, he’s chatting away,” she told the ABC from Albury hospital.
“He has certainly taken off before, as people who know Ben would know.
“He’s quite adventurous, he can travel pretty quickly.”
While Ben has previously gone missing for up to 45 minutes, Ms David said this was the most serious incident, especially as the family had lived in the home for only a week.
“It’s just been a really heartwarming and welcoming experience where people we’ve never met were happy to come out in the middle of the night, in the pouring rain and the cold, to look for our little kid,” she said.
Mr McLennan was one of the people who saw the appeal for help online.
The Wodonga man grabbed his motorbike and headed out to help.
His GoPro footage showed Ben Hill running up and putting a jacket on the barefoot child and helping him.
“I just had a feeling when I woke up and saw it on Facebook – Ben did too – he just said he knew he would be up there,” Mr McLennan said.
“Thank god he wasn’t out here for another night.”
Mr McLennan sold footage of the incident to television networks and said he would donate the money to the family and a Down syndrome group in Albury.