Sunday, August 11, 2013

Dena Burns Drowns in Pond

SWAINSBORO, Ga. -- Emanuel County sheriff's officials say a 6-year-old girl with autism has drowned in a pond.

Sheriff Tyson Stephens said Thursday that foul play is not suspected in the death of Dena Burns.
Investigators say her parents reported her missing Thursday morning and they told authorities they believed she walked away from their home in Swainsboro.

Officials found the girl unconscious in a nearby pond and were unable to revive her.
(Associated Press)

Read here.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A 2-year-old Akron boy drowned over the weekend in southern Ohio.
The toddler, who is autistic, reportedly wandered away from his family as they stayed at a cottage near the Muskingum River about 8 p.m. Saturday.
The family found the little boy, Andrew “Drew” Howell, in the river.
The Muskingum County Sheriff’s Office reported that the boy was transported by the Dresden Fire Department to Genesis Good Samaritan Medical in Zanesville, where he later was pronounced dead.
The family administered CPR on the boy for 10 minutes before the fire department arrived.
Laurie Cramer, director of the Autism Society of Greater Akron, said Drew wandered away from the cabin and must have headed straight to the river — about 100 yards away.
Cramer, who was asked to speak to the media on behalf of the family, said Drew’s mother, Kelly Howell, shared that her “worst fears happened.”
“It only took 30 seconds of my attention being somewhere else” for her son to wander off, the mother told Cramer in an email.
Cramer said drowning is a constant worry for parents of autistic children.
“Wandering-related accidents are the No. 1 killer of children with autism,” she said.
Cramer added that in the past week alone there have been three drowning deaths in the U.S. of autistic children.
“[These] children are prone to wandering,” Cramer said. “It is one of the big stresses of having a child with autism.”
Cramer said another factor: Autistic children often are attracted to water.
Drew was described as “always happy” with a “contagious smile” in his obituary in today’s Beacon Journal.
“He loved to snuggle especially with his Mommy and Daddy,” the obituary said. “He was rarely upset unless he was hungry.”
Calling hours will be from 4 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Bacher Funeral Home, 3250 Greenwich Road, Norton. The funeral will be at 10 a.m. Thursday at the funeral home, followed by burial at Greenlawn Memorial Park.
Drew is survived by his parents, Andrew and Kelly Howell and a sister, Katelyn.
Memorial donations can be made to the Autism Society of Greater Akron at 2858 W. Market St., Suite I, Fairlawn, 44333, in Drew’s memory.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Owen Black

An 8-year-old autistic boy missing since Friday on Perdido Key has been found dead in the water, authorities on the scene confirm.

Owen Black, who was visiting from Louisiana, was found by someone on the beach shortly after 1 p.m. in the water in the Gulf of Mexico behind Shipwatch Surf & Yacht Club on Perdido Key Drive, less than a half a mile away from where he was last seen, authorities said.

He likely drowned, the Escambia County Sheriff's Office said, though the Medical Examiner's Office has yet to perform an autopsy. ...

Friday, May 17, 2013

Mikaela Lynch, Autism, Drowns

Searchers found the body of a missing 9-year-old San Francisco girl in a creek near her family's Lake County vacation home Wednesday, authorities said.

Mikaela Lynch, who had autism and the mental capacity of a 1-year-old, was last seen in the backyard of the home on Harbor Drive in Clearlake on Sunday around 1:30 p.m. She had been playing on a trampoline with her younger brother but was left alone briefly when he ran inside to avoid a bee, police said.

Her body was found in nearby Cache Creek by dive team members just before noon, said Clearlake Police Chief Craig Clausen. Foul play is not suspected. Clausen said it appears she wandered into the creek.
"It's really tragic," said police Sgt. Nick Bennett, adding that Mikaela was "a sweet little girl. We had hopes it might turn out differently."

Searchers had looked in the marshes near the home because Mikaela, who did not speak but could communicate through basic hand signals, was "attracted to water," police said.

Mike Dowling, Mikaela's godfather, described her as a "sweetheart" with an "ever-present smile."
"She loves running, playing," Dowling said. "Extremely gregarious. Just a great laugh, a fantastic laugh."
According to the National Autism Association, about half of children with autism are prone to wandering away from their homes, and a third cannot communicate their name, address or other helpful information.
Autistic children are also commonly drawn to water. Of those found dead after wandering in recent years, 91 percent had drowned, according to the association.

Mikaela was a student at Sunset Elementary School in San Francisco, district officials said.
Her teacher and six current and former teachers' aides drove up to Clearlake earlier this week to help in the search, said district spokeswoman Gentle Blythe.

Counselors were at the school Wednesday to help students needing assistance, and the school is expected to honor Mikaela in the coming days, Blythe said.

"Our heart goes out to the family of Mikaela Lynch," Blythe said in a statement. "The Sunset Elementary community has been eagerly awaiting her safe return and is shocked and saddened by today's news. The principal will be sharing the news with the school community and has assembled a crisis response team that is prepared to respond to the emotional needs of students."

San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Jill Tucker contributed to this story.

Ellen Huet is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: Twitter: @ellenhuet

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Autistic boy, 11, dies after hit by SUV

An 11-year-old boy who had autism died when he was hit by a sports utility vehicle as he tried to cross the Interstate 10 service road in west Houston Wednesday night.

The collision happened about 7:40 p.m. in the 11300 block of the westbound Katy Freeway service road near Kirkwood, according to the Houston Police Department.

Police identified the child as Desmond Thomas, of Houston. Police said the boy reportedly had autism.
Police said Thomas ran into traffic on the service road and the driver of a Lincoln Navigator that was traveling westbound on the roadway hit him. Thomas was rushed to Texas Children's Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Police said The SUV driver was unable to avoid hitting Thomas and stopped after the collision. The driver, police said, showed no signs of intoxication or impairment. He was questioned at the scene and released.
The boy has special needs and was in the care of his father when he wandered away as the father was doing laundry, said Estella Olguin, spokeswoman for state Child Protective Services.

"He was being watched," Olguin said, "but he just wandered away. It's tragic."

Olguin said CPS is investigating the case, which is agency protocol whenever a child dies. The agency is also helping the boy's family members with counseling for their grief.

Police were still investigating the case.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Jeremiah Conn, Age 5, Wanders and Drowns

Even as the community celebrated that young Scott Myer of Wisconsin was found safely, another family is grieving for a young life lost to autism by drowning.  From Wisconsin State Journal:

Stoughton police and firefighters found the body of a missing 5-year-old boy in a rainwater retention pond Tuesday evening.

The body of Jeremiah Conn, of Madison, was found after firefighters drained a retention pond near the Stoughton Fire Department building on East Main Street, Sgt. Rick Helstad of the Stoughton Police Department said.

The boy was reportedly spotted in or near the pond by a 911 caller at around 4:12 p.m., Helstad said. When officers arrived at the pond, though, they couldn't find the boy.

Shortly thereafter, they were flagged down by a person who was looking for a missing autistic boy. They began searching the murky pond and the surrounding area with help from the Stoughton Fire Department, he said.

The boy's shoes were found near the edge of the pond, Helstad said.

While the pond was being searched, almost 100 volunteers joined with police and fire officers to do a block-by-block search of the area, Helstad said.

But ultimately, the boy's body was found at around 7 p.m. after the pond had been "substantially" drained, he said.

Helstad said the boy was autistic, "almost nonverbal" and "was attracted to water." His family had brought him to Stoughton for the Stoughton Junior Fair, he said.

The police chaplain was called out to help comfort the boy's family and the officers, firefighters and volunteers who helped with the search, Helstad said.

There is no fence around the pond where the boy's body was found.

Helstad said the investigation into the incident has been closed and the death ruled an accidental drowning.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The family of a 5-year-old drowning victim tried many times to teach her the danger of water

BRADENTON, Fla. - A Bradenton family is mourning the loss of a 5-year-old autistic girl who drowned Monday afternoon in the retention pond behind their home.

According to police, the Kesia Kearce slipped out through the home's sliding glass door. Her family never even noticed she was gone.

"First I saw her, then I saw her in the water, then she was gone," said neighbor, Les Shedek.

Shedek jumped in to save her.

"I thought maybe I had her at one point but it was just a big log or something, a branch," he cried.

Brian Byrket, who'd come to the Braden River Lakes subdivision to mow lawns, also dove in.
"It was hard because you want to find her but you don't want to find her at the same time," he explained. "We were hoping for a better outcome but that's what we got."

Norman Kearce admits his daughter loved water. They'd tried many times to teach her its dangers but to no avail.

"They like the feeling of water. In fact, a lot of children with autism may feel more calm in the water. They seem more focused in the water," explained pediatrician Dr. David Berger.  "A child with autism may very well run away from the family."

Dr. Berger calls water a constant attraction and threat for all children, even if they don't suffer from autism. He recommends at least two barriers between a child and water, as well as a door alarm system, as well as the Pool Angel Anti-Drowning Alarm.