When James King set out last week to accomplish the seemingly impossible — find 11-year-old Winter Springs girl Nadia Bloom in a vast expanse of woods and swampland — he was well-prepared and well-equipped.
King carried a cell phone with GPS and told dispatchers exactly where to find him and Nadia.
But recordings of police radio transmissions obtained by the Orlando Sentinel this week show an eventual happy ending that was anything but quick and easy.
The main reason: The dense woods of the roughly 5,000-acre Lake Jesup Conservation Area concealed the duo — even from helicopter pilots in broad daylight.
When King placed the 911 call just before 8:30 a.m. April 13, authorities were admittedly skeptical.
Well-trained search teams had turned up nothing since Nadia's bicycle and helmet were found abandoned four days earlier at the end of a cul-de-sac in the gated Barrington Estates subdivision where she lives.
Rescue teams started from three locations, including along State Road 417, where they found King's truck.
That team of searchers waded through the swamp for about two hours and never reached King's location, Winter Springs police Chief Kevin Brunelle said.
Another team headed north from S.R. 434, while the group of searchers that eventually reached the pair entered the swamp and headed west from a command post within the subdivision.
The first to reach the area were deputies in a Seminole County Sheriff's Office helicopter. Because they had the GPS coordinates, they knew they were close, and a dispatcher talking to King on his cell phone said she could hear them overhead.
Even after Nadia and King were pinpointed, searchers on the ground struggled to reach them.
As searchers neared the area where the chopper was hovering, the dispatcher told them King would be whistling to help them find him.
They asked the helicopter crew to back away so they could hear him, but the pilot said he was afraid he would lose sight of the two and, instead, just lifted higher into the air.
"We just heard him," an officer said and about two minutes later he told dispatchers they could see King and Nadia.
Seconds later he announced over the radio: "We're ten-two-five." He was emphasizing the radio code 10-25, which means "contact with." That was 9:35 a.m.
"I still get goose bumps," said Winter Springs police Cpl. Allison Smith as she listened to those words this week.
It would take about two hours to carry Nadia out of the swamp. Once the route out was selected, officers outside the swamp began hacking a trail until they reached the rescue crew that was on its way out or it would have taken even longer, Brunelle said.