Wisconsin boy lost for 2 days in Michigan park prayed he wouldn't spend 'rest of my life' in woods

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Thursday, May 11, 2023
How 8-year-old boy survived in woods for 2 days
Nante Niemi was found safe after the 8-year-old boy went missing during a Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park camping trip.

MICHIGAN -- For the first time, the 8-year-old boy who spent two full days alone in a Michigan state park shared how he survived.

"I prayed for being found, and not stuck out here for the rest of my life," Nante Niemi said.

This past weekend, Nante was camping with his grandpa and three uncles. The group went to get firewood.

"So my uncle, he said to go back to camp. And, I couldn't say, 'I don't know all the way back to camp,' because he already turned around and left. I was trying to go diagonal into the part where we came from, and I ended up by a river. I wasn't even close to the part where we first went up," Nante said.

Nante quickly realized he was lost. When the group got back to the campsite, they discovered he wasn't there.

"They took some time to search for him, and couldn't find them. And, they decided they needed to give up and call for help," said Jessica Buerger, Nante's mother.

That call set off a frantic search, with almost 300 people helping, of the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, which spans some 60,000 acres.

"It's very hilly, rough terrain. And, this time of year, with snowmelt and the rain that we've had, there was a lot of standing water and the rivers were very high," said Michigan State Police Lt. Jason Wickstrom.

"I was worried about the cold, and that he was by himself in the dark, crying. You know, we were hoping that he wasn't walking around at night and hunkered down," Jessica said.

Nante said he tried to think about positive things to avoid letting the fear take over. And, when he got hungry?

"I just ate snow, just because I usually do it in the winter," Nante said.

The first morning, he woke up to some hope: a chopper hovering over him.

"I was waving my hands in the air and yelling at them to get their attention. I saw that helmet poking out of the side of the helicopter, but they didn't see me," Nante said.

Nante waited, sleeping a second night under some branches. He woke up to some noise.

"I heard people yelling my name. And, I saw one green thing hanging. Then, I saw somebody. I ran straight to them," Nante said.

Part of his rescue was caught on video. Nante quickly reunited with his family.

"I ate a Clif bar and a primo meal sandwich. It tasted good," Nante said.

But, will he go camping again?

"Yeah, I'm still going to go camping, but I'm going to have a little bit better preparation next time," Nante said.