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