Sheriff credits helicopter's heat-detection equipment in locating toddler with autism

Deputies found the 2-year-old boy in tall grass near a tree line about 400 yards from his home


By Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

DEERFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. — A missing 2-year-old boy with autism was found safe Tuesday in rural Lapeer County by police with heat detection equipment on a helicopter, officials said.

The boy's father called police at 9:30 p.m. Monday to report the boy missing from their home in the 4500 block of Fish Lake Road near Mott Road, about 70 miles north of Detroit, according to the Lapeer County Sheriff's Office. The boy's mother was at work at the time, police said.

He told the first deputy to arrive that he fell asleep on the couch. When he woke up, he discovered the door was unlocked and the family dog, which never left the boy's side, was wet. He also told the deputy there was a pond on the property.

As the deputy searched the home, other deputies arrived and got into the pond to look for the boy in its shallow areas. The sheriff's dive team had been requested as was help from a Michigan State Police helicopter unit.

At about midnight Tuesday, state police using the helicopter's heat detection system were able to locate the boy.

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They relayed the information to sheriff's deputies who were searching the area on foot. The deputies found the child in the tall grass, in a fetal position, near a tree line about 400 yards from his home.

"MSP's helicopter has some of the most sophisticated technology available and is an incredible asset when attempting to locate people," the sheriff's office said in a statement. "Without their assistance, it would have been very difficult to find that child."

Officials said the boy was examined by medics and turned over to his parents. They also said about 80 people helped with the search.

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