Teens Rescued from Neda Mine after 21 Hour Search
16-year-old Zachary Heron gets led to an ambulance appearing much dirtier compared to a photo released by Dodge County authorities during the search.
It's just after noon on this Monday morning and Heron's friends, 16-year-old Tate Rose and 15-year-old Samuel Lein follow nearby.
They're flanked by about 30 members of search and rescue teams from across Dodge County all converging on the tiny town of Hubbard - more specifically: the Neda Mine.
"I can hear breathing in the town again! So I guess I'm doing some of that right now. Oh, amen!" Josie Ziolkowski, a neighbor to the search area, said.
"The one that I talked to..." Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt said,"...I asked 'What is your plan when you go back and talk to your friends about the caves?' And his initial reaction was 'Don't go in there'."
Authorities said they found the boys a few hundred yards into the mine in pitch black conditions. The group had cell phone flashlight that died and a Bic lighter that ran out.
Their families noticed them missing Sunday afternoon. Otto Pavelka is neighbors with the Lein family.
"The family is supposed to be going on vacation so I'm watching their chocolate lab. And Samuel's sister had come over about 6:30 to drop off Maggie and that's when the boys were missing," Pavelka said.
"Then I got Maggie settled and I came over to help," Pavelka said.
"I know when I was a kid, my friends that lived up in here, we always went in there but now that it's the bat caves. It's all supposed to be private property," Pavelka said.
The boys had been missing about 21 hours until select rescuers from more than a dozen agencies heard quiet calls for help.
Sheriff Schmidt added that he is looking for ways to keep this kind of trespassing at Neda Mine from happening again.
"I'm am sure the University of Wisconsin is very interested in keeping people out of these mines. I am sure that they'll put more resources in to making them a little bit more secure - even more so than they have in the past. But I really want to stress to everybody that these mines are very dangerous. It's fortunate we were able to find these three teenagers when we did," Sheriff Schmidt said.
The teenagers will most likely not be charged with trespassing, Sheriff Schmidt said.
Dodge county authorities said they teenagers were not injured apart from a few bumps and bruises.
The families of the teens issued the following statement:
At this time it’s so hard to find words adequate to express how incredibly blessed we feel to have our boys back with us safe in our homes. We along with our family and friends went straight to the Lord God to ask for the safe return of Sam, Zach and Tate.
We want to express our utmost gratitude for the countless Emergency Service Workers who united together to bring our boys home safely. We will be forever grateful to each and every one of you for working tirelessly throughout the night and the heat of the day to do this. It was amazing to watch both the families and different organizations supporting each other and seamlessly putting a plan together.
We ask that you respect the privacy of our families from this point forward and this is our final statement in regards to this incident. Please know that we are eternally grateful to all of you.
Respectfully the families of Sam Lein, Zach Heron and Tate Rose