Sunday, June 19, 2011

Kristina Vlassenko, Age 10

ARVADA - Authorities are working to figure out what caused the death of a missing girl with autism found on Tuesday morning at a construction site. Arvada Police also want to know why a tracking device on the girl did not work properly.

Kristina Vlassenko, 10, was reported missing by family members Monday afternoon. She was last seen at 3:30 p.m. Her parents contacted police within one hour, said Arvada Police spokesperson Susan Medina.

Medina says a construction worker found the girl's body near 58th Avenue and Oak Street around 7 a.m. Tuesday. Police say she may have fallen into a water-filled hole excavated for the foundation of a new recreation center.

Investigators do not believe foul play was involved. The coroner's office has yet to determine her cause of death.

"It's never easy. You just want to bring that child home and in this case we didn't get to do that," Medina said.

Medina says the girl was equipped with a Life Trak system, which is a transmitter about the size of a wrist watch used to locate at-risk people when they go missing. They are similar to those used for people with Alzheimer's and autism. Arvada began using the program in 2008 at no cost to families that qualified.

According to officers, Kristina's Life Trak had never been activated before, since she did not have a history of wandering off. They were not able to get a signal from it when it was activated Monday.

"We never were able to get a solid ping from that," Medina said.

9NEWS contacted six law enforcement agencies that use Colorado Life Trak. All reported that the technology is reliable - with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office reporting its success rate at 100 percent.

Michael Chylewski, vice president of Illinois-based Care Trak International, says this is the company's first reported fatality in its 26-year history.

"We were very sad to hear about the incident," he said. "We are sending company representatives out to aid the local police and sheriff's office in their investigation."

Jefferson County Sheriff's Public Information Director Jacki Kelley says the key is to report the missing person quickly.

"It should be up and running within ten minutes of the missing child," Kelley said.

Cmdr. Jeff Satur with Longmont Police sys his agency used Life Trak on May 13 to find a missing man with autism. The search took less than 30 minutes once the technology was activated.

"It helps us locate the people that we are looking for very quickly," Satur said. "We're very happy with its success."

Officers suspect Kristina's transmitter probably wasn't emitting a traceable signal because it was under water. They have contacted the manufacturer, Illinois-based Care Trak, to address the issue.

9NEWS left a message with the company after business hours Tuesday.

Kristina's former school bus driver, Liz Garcia, says the girl could have easily wandered into a dangerous situation.

"She is very nonverbal. I just can't imagine her being lost and not being able to cry out for help," Garcia said.

Garcia says Kristina loved to play in dirt and that could have been a reason she went into the construction site.

Investigators are asking anyone who may have seen the girl from the time she was reported missing to the time she was found to call police at 720-898-6900.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)