(NBC News) -- The family of an Alabama boy abducted from his school bus and being held in an underground bunker is "holding on by a thread," a state representative said Thursday as the hostage drama stretched into a third day.
The boy, a 5-year-old named Ethan, is receiving necessary medication and appears to be calm and doing well, a state senator said.
The child was kidnapped Tuesday after school when a man stormed the bus and demanded the driver hand over young children. When the driver refused, the man shot and killed him and grabbed the boy, authorities said.
A source close to the investigation identified the suspected gunman to NBC News as Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, and said that he was a loner and survivalist who "does not trust the government" and holds "anti-American views."
Hostage negotiators were reportedly talking to Dykes through a PVC pipe. After a second night ended with no sign of progress in negotiations, Alabama state Rep. Steve Clouse told TODAY: "We are all just hoping this can come to a safe end."
The boy's family is "holding on by a thread," he said.
Clouse told The Associated Press that the bunker was equipped with power, food and television.
Alabama state Sen. Harri Anne Smith told TODAY that negotiators had delivered medication that the boy needed, provided by his mother, and that he was believed to be calm and doing well. His mother has "taken comfort in that," she said.
In the remote town of Midland City, just north of the Alabama-Florida state line, people attended church vigils Wednesday night, lighting candles and praying for the boy's safe release.
"Right now the whole town seems like they're just in a mourning stage," convenience store manager Carl McKenzie told NBC affiliate WSFA. "I would go take that child's place if I could, just to get him out of danger."
Authorities offered no hints to the gunman's motive. Clause said the kidnapping appeared random.
People in Midland City said that they had seen the suspect tirelessly digging up his own yard, even his driveway, sometimes in the middle of the night — apparently building what one man in the neighborhood described as a bomb shelter fortified by sand.
Dykes burst onto the yellow school bus about 3:40 p.m. Tuesday, authorities said. When the driver, Charles Albert Poland Jr., 66, tried to stop Dykes from taking children off the bus, he was shot and killed. The source close to the investigation told NBC News that four spent bullets were found at the scene.
The county school system said that 21 students had made it off the bus safely, and praised Poland as a fallen hero. But the gunman made off with the one child, possibly because the boy fainted during the siege, according to WSFA.
Clouse said gratitude was being expressed for Poland''s actions, telling TODAY: "He started the day as a bus driver and ended it a hero."
Hostage negotiators have been talking to Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, who abducted a kindergartner from his school bus Tuesday. NBC's Gabe Gutierrez reports.
Linda Williams, a county tax clerk whose cousin was married to Poland, described him to NBC News as "a good Christian man" who was active in church.
"It says in the Bible the meek will inherit the earth," brother-in-law Melvin Skipper told The Dothan Eagle newspaper. "He was the meekest man I knew."
Poland's neighbor, Hilburn Benton, told the newspaper that Poland refused to accept payment for work on his yard two years ago. "He told me, ‘You're my friend and you're my neighbor. I'm not charging you a dime,'" Benton recalled.
Dykes had been due in court Wednesday morning to face a misdemeanor charge of menacing. A neighbor, James E. Davis Jr., claimed that Dykes had pointed a pistol at his truck on Dec. 10 and fired the weapon.
The Associated Press said Dykes was accused of shooting at his neighbors in a dispute over a speed bump.
The Dothan Eagle quoted another neighbor, Michael Creel, describing the bunker as a "homemade bomb shelter," roughly 4 feet wide, 6 feet long and 8 feet deep and covered by several feet of sand.
Another neighbor, Danny Dean, told NBC News that he had dug up his own driveway.
Rhonda Wilbur told WSFA that Dykes was a longtime source of concern in the neighborhood because "he has been like a time bomb waiting for him to go off." Wilbur told reporters that Dykes had beaten her dog to death with a lead pipe.
A minister, Michael Senn, told WSFA that the other children ran for safety and hid behind Destiny Church.
"All the kids are at a safe place," he said, though he added that they all appeared to be in shock.
In addition to the county sheriff's department, the FBI and a SWAT team were on the scene. A woman answering the phone at the Midland Police Department said the FBI had completely taken over and that local police were no longer involved. Authorities ordered people living nearby to leave during the standoff.
Schools in Dale County and the nearby city of Ozark were closed for the rest of the week. Dale County schools said counselors would be available to help students, including those who were on the bus.