A 4-year-old boy who slipped away from his grandfather as he turned his back for a second was the focus of a large manhunt in the dark woods of a Northern Westchester town.
The incident took place around 5 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 30, in North Salem, off Hardscrabble Road.
The search for the autistic, non-verbal boy began when he disappeared within a second as he played in the backyard of his home with his grandfather and two brothers, said North Salem Police Officer Anthony Spennicchia.
The boy apparently slipped through a hole in a chain-link fence into the neighbor's yard that included acres of wooded area, Spennicchia said.
As soon as he spoke to the parents, Spennichia, a retired NYPD detective, jumped into action as the sky darkened and knowing there were bears, coyotes, and deer in the area.
Working with his partner, Officer Jerry O'Dwyer, the two immediately called the state police for a helicopter, K-9 dogs, extra manpower, and the Croton Falls Fire Department for thermal imaging cameras.
"Having worked missing person cases many times before in my career I knew we had to work fast with darkness falling and a small child alone in the woods," Spennichia added.
The neighbor even got on a tractor with a light to help in the search.
Once assembled, the group fanned out and began searching the woods for the boy. Fighting their way through the acres of woods for two hours calling his name and searching every space possible.
"We were all very concerned for the child," he said.
The mother joined the search too, and along with a trooper kept calling out to her son promising ice cream if he came out.
And then, after more than two hours of intense work, the small boy was found standing silently in the woods by his mother and the trooper.
The boy was not injured, but was scared, especially when members of the Croton Ambulance crew began to check him out for any injuries, Spennichia said.
"We were all very relieved and happy that the boy was found safely," he said. "It was a real team effort."
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