An Alabama man is being hailed a hero for going out of his way to find a missing 3-year-old girl who got lost in the woods earlier this week, the Cullman Tribune reports.
Eric Gilbreath, 37, said he felt compelled to help search for Serenity Dawn Sanders because she and his son have the same mother.
His heart, he said, “just fell out on the floor” when he learned on Thursday that she was missing.
Sanders disappeared when the girl’s mother left her outside alone just for a moment with a new puppy. The girl and the dog were both gone when the woman returned.
After Gilbreath got a call in the middle of the night about the missing girl, he drove two hours to help in the search effort.
“My first thought was helping getting out there and looking. I wasn’t going to give up,” he told Fox 4 News.
Gilbreath, an experienced hunter, said he was concerned that predators in the woods such as coyotes could harm the girl.
By the time he arrived, rescue crews were on the verge of quitting until daylight. Gilbreath wouldn’t have it.
“I couldn’t wait; I just went off into the woods and started calling her name,” he told the Cullman Tribune.
After several hours, Gilbreath eventually spotted the dog, which he followed to the girl.
“Hi Eric!” Serenity exclaimed when Gilbreath spotted her.
He immediately called her mother to notify her that the girl was safe.
“I’ve got her!” Gilbreath told Serenity’s mom by phone. “She’s scratched up, but she’s fine.”
Serenity was later brought to a hospital for evaluation as a precautionary measure.
Gilbreath said he was thankful the experience ended on a positive note.
“There were a lot of tears,” Gilbreath said. “I even cried, and I don’t cry much, but these were happy tears.”
[Feature image: Police handout]