'I sat on the road and cried' - Mum reunited with Josh, 3
HE is Zilzie Bay's answer to Houdini, always managing to pull off a seamless disappearance.
But "fearless" three-year-old Josh McMillan gave his parents the fright of their lives when he went missing from his New Forest Rd house for several hours this morning.
Josh, who has autism, woke his mum April Walters, at 6.30am this morning before heading into the lounge room to watch cartoons with his big brother.
Dozing back off to sleep Alice woke up at later to find no sight of Josh.
"He is a bit of a Houdini, we have both of our gates chained up, but yesterday we brought a new chicken pen and were setting it up so the gates weren't closed properly," April said.
"It was late in the evening and we just didn't check.
"So he's gone outside to play and gone through the gate, and when I got up at 9am he was missing."
April and the family searched the house for Josh before her partner set out to look for him.
Worried sick, the young mum called police who advised her to stay home with her other children in case Josh returned home.
"All of Emu Park and Zilzie (were out looking), my parents came from Yeppoon, everyone was looking," April said.
"Police, SES and even the rescue chopper came down but as soon as I heard they needed the helicopter I was so, so scared."
After hours of desperately searching for the water-loving toddler who can't swim, good news was delivered to the family; the chopper had found him.
"I don't know how to describe it, I just broke down," April said of receiving the good news.
"I couldn't move, talk, I just couldn't do anything, I just sat down on the road and cried."
Penelope, the family dog, was the one who caught the attention of the chopper thanks to her white coat standing out against the mudflats.
"Our little puppy Penelope, she's a mini foxy cross Jack Russell, is by Josh's side 24/7 and she's gone with him and stayed with him to the very end but when the helicopter came down to see him, she's gotten a fright and ran."
Josh, who was found in a puddle, was reunited with his family before being taken to hospital.
While the family took all measures to ensure the adventurous three-year-old (who has gone missing before) could not roam free, April said it just wasn't enough.
"We have an alarm on our door because he's done it a few times...we've got all the precautions set in place it's just that sometimes these things happen," she said.
The search is still under way for Penelope the dog.