Quick Action by Search and Rescue Teams Enable Safe Return of Autistic 12-Year-Old

(January 20, 2024) - Yesterday afternoon YCSO received a call from Cottonwood Police Department asking for assistance with locating a missing autistic 12-year-old child at the Black Canyon Day Use recreational area in Cottonwood.  The boy, who is nonverbal, was in the area with his grandfather and had walked away somewhere near the river's edge. 

Patrol deputies immediately called the YCSO Search and Rescue (SAR) Sergeant, who arrived on scene and began placing units in route searches and containment positions to avoid missing the child if he wandered further off. While beginning the search, YCSO received a few calls from the public saying they had seen a young boy near the river, but the locations were conflicting.  

Due to the terrain and the seriousness of finding an autistic child, deputies called out assets from every Search and Rescue unit affiliated with YCSO, including Back Country SAR for possible swift water rescue; the Off-Highway Vehicle, 4x4 and Jeep Posse Teams; Search Dog Units and the Verde Search and Rescue Team for ground searches.  

There was also a large response from outside agencies that included Cottonwood Police Department, Verde Valley Fire Department with their swift water team, DPS patrol troopers, and a DPS Ranger helicopter. 

While deploying a second wave of arriving SAR members, the DPS Ranger searched a location near Thousand Trails and Highway 260, where one of the reports of a sighting had been received.  The DPS Ranger was able to locate the boy in a ravine, and guide YCSO deputies to his location where he was hiding.  

The deputies located the boy, and through gentle and caring interaction, were able to get him to leave with them so he could be reunited with his family safe and without injury.  

The entire rescue mission took only 2 hours thanks to the quick mobilization and response from all the agencies and volunteers who answered the call for assistance.