7-year-old autistic boy found in lake dies

Child discovered floating after he wandered away

Posted: Tuesday, May 29, 2007

ANCHORAGE - An autistic boy found unconscious and floating in a lake has died, Anchorage police said.

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The 7-year-old boy on Saturday wandered away from home and was found in Campbell Lake. He was pronounced dead at an Anchorage hospital Sunday, police said.

The boy, identified only as Alex, was drawn to water, his parents told police.

The family also told police it was not unusual for Alex to wander away, said Anchorage Police Lt. Paul Honeman. The family waited about a half hour Saturday night to call police for help.

"They said, 'Yeah, he often disappears for short periods of time, but we often find him,"' Honeman said. The boy did not communicate well but typically would return to his family when they called for him.

Campbell Lake is about 10 blocks from the boy's home.

Neighbors and family members helped look for the boy and police called in a specially trained search team. A family friend found the boy in the lake, Honeman said.

"It's a good-sized lake there," Honeman said. "There's a bit of a rambling hill and you kind of drop down into that area. There are a lot of homes and floatplanes. He could have easily just gone along and dropped below somebody's house and dropped into the water and not realized the danger."

Medics performed CPR and "felt he had a fighting chance," Honeman said.

"I know they transported him (to the hospital) and they probably wouldn't have transported him if there hadn't been some chance."

Honeman said the case was heartbreaking because of Alex's disability. The children already are vulnerable to injury and danger, he said.

"Obviously (Alex) was afflicted with an illness that kept him from being able to fully comprehend and ... because of that he was even more vulnerable," Honeman said. "It makes you feel even worse."

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