WINTER SPRINGS, Fla. — James King said it was an act of God that led him to find Nadia Bloom in a thick swamp early today.
“God directed me to her,” King said hours after finding the 11-year-girl alive.
A day earlier, the 44-year-old University of Central Florida alum was part of a volunteer search crew that had been unable to find Nadia.
But at first light today, King, a military contractor, entered the woods armed with two cell phones, his shoes taped to his feet and some food and water to give Nadia if she was found. He prayed, quoted Scripture and looked to God to direct him to Nadia.
Then he called her name repeatedly as he ambled through the woods.
“I knew the Lord wanted me to go back in as soon as it was daylight,” King said. “I needed him to direct my path. I asked him, would he guide my path?”
The path led him to the middle of the swampy area between state roads 434 and 417 and the girl’s gated subdivision, Barrington Estates.
“I said, ‘Nadia!’ and she answered, ‘What?”’ said King, recalling a moment about 8:30 a.m.
The missing 11-year-old was sitting calmly on top of a log. She didn’t appear to be injured but was “polka-dotted” by bug bites, he said.
He scooped her up gingerly, praised God and then called 911 from the phone he knew was equipped with GPS.
King fed Nadia trail mix — she was disappointed it didn’t have M&Ms — and she munched on an apple as they waited for rescue crews to arrive. They talked and prayed while they waited, King said.
“She said she went on a nature walk and got lost,” King said. “She was sure someone was going to come and find her.”
At one point, he used toilet paper to line trees in a nearby clearing to help attract the attention of the sheriff’s helicopter. King said he took the toilet paper because the Lord directed him to do so and because it was biodegradable.
A small crowd cheered when Nadia, King and the rescue crews emerged from the woods shortly before noon.
King was quickly whisked away by law-enforcement officials, who debriefed and questioned him. Later, King said investigators acted professionally and that it was their job to check into things.
“The police need to make sure that she is found, but also under no circumstances that are dubious,” he said.
Investigators asked him how he got to the woods, how he found the child and how he knew where to look, King said.
Law-enforcement officers checked his car and looked into his background, he said. But they did not ask him for a DNA swab or to take a lie-detector test, King said.
Residents in the King’s old neighborhood praised their former neighbor.
“He’s a good, honest, Christian man,” friend Lewis Lineberger said. “He’s a believer in prayer. He really does believe in all of that.”
When asked about her husband’s heroic feat, Diana King said, “This is James King. He is who he is. He’s got great faith. He’s an instrument used by God.”