Police officers cried tears of relief on Wednesday night when they scooped up two exhausted little boys 7km from home, a day after another boy had been found after going missing in Motherwell.
"One of the police officers, Lieutenant Colonel Jesvin Arends, said when he found the boys, he teared up with extreme relief and emotion," said police spokesperson Colonel Priscilla Naidu on Thursday, speaking about the rescue of the Eastern Cape boys who had been missing.
"He just grabbed the boys in his arms. They were so small."
Othandwayo Zenzile, 4, Linandle Zenzile and Nande Nombewu, both 3 years old, disappeared on Tuesday afternoon after they were last seen playing in an open field near the home of one of the children.
Their parents spent hours searching for them, and eventually turned to the police for help at 22:00.
Police on Wednesday appealed to the public to assist with finding the three named boys.
A massive search party consisting of local residents and at least five police units, including the dog unit, searched through bushes, open fields, from door-to-door – everywhere they could think of, a statement by Naidu said.
A whimper behind a sand dune
A helicopter also buzzed over the area hoping for a sighting of the boys.
The first child, Linandle, was found at about 14:25 on Wednesday by workers at the Amanzi quarry. He was simply sitting on a weighbridge at the quarry between Uitenhage and Motherwell.
The quarry workers called Uitenhage police and the little boy was fetched and taken to the Motherwell police station.
The search party then shifted its focus to the quarry and surrounding area, and even more police officers, metro police, rescue dogs and residents joined in, fanning out in the hopes of finding his little friends there too.
The whimper of a child behind a sand dune led Arends and colleague Warrant Officer Francois Marais to the discovery of Othandwayo and Nande.
To their relief the two missing boys were lying on the rocks on the ground – almost 7km from home – and alive.
Naidu said that Arends saw Othandwayo and Nande first and was so overwhelmed with relief that he started crying.
The boys were scooped up and taken to hospital for medical examinations.
Naidu said that it was still too early to say how the boys got there and police are investigating the circumstances of their mystery journey.
In one of the pictures taken at the scene, one of the children was wearing only one sandal.
The Herald newspaper reported that the other sandal was picked up near where they had last been seen playing.
Major General Dawie Rabie said it was overwhelming to see how people from all over the metro helped in whichever way they could to find the children.
"People came straight from work and joined the search," said Rabie.
"We are just glad that these children are now safe and reunited with their parents. We urge parents to be extra cautious and to know where their children are at all times. Children as young as these should never be left out of sight," Rabie said.