Dog cuddling keeps stranded pair warm

A West Coast four-year-old and his mother have survived a chilly night stuck down a steep bank snuggled up to several dogs to stay warm.

Greymouth police Constable Dave Taylor said the drama began yesterday afternoon when the youngster fell about 10m down a rugged gully near his Ahaurafarm while playing with his dogs.

His mum was nearby and saw it happen so rushed over to rescue him, but also fell down the steep bank, unfortunately pushing him further down, he said.

‘‘After about three hours of attempting to find a way out, they got caught out by darkness.’’

They kept warm during the night by cuddling up to the dogs, which had also fallen down with them. The boy slept on his mother, wrapped in her jacket.

No one realised the pair was missing and the mother had no phone with her to contact anyone.

The boy’s father, a builder, was working overnight in Whataroaso.

At dawn this morning, she left her son to search for a way out and finally managed to clamber to safety about 9am, calling emergency services from their home only 200m away.

‘‘She did really well to get out even though it’s a short way down. She had quite a lot of scratches on her,’’ Taylor said.

A local volunteer fire crew managed to get down the bank to keep the youngster safe until Greymouth firefighters plucked him out on a stretcher.

‘‘He didn’t say a lot, but he was pretty keen for his breakfast. He was talking about cornflakes when he got up.

‘‘They were both obviously pretty cold.’’

St John Ambulance took the boy, who had a sore shoulder, and his mother to Greymouth Hospital for assessment.