WATCH – ‘A Beautiful Ending’: Florida Deputies Rescue Five-Year-Old with Autism from Swamp

Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office / BODY CAMS+ /TMX

Law enforcement officers rescued a five-year-old girl with autism on Monday after she wandered away from her home in Tampa, Florida, and got lost in a swamp.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) said the child walked away from her residence located on Windbrush Avenue but was eventually found at approximately 5:00 p.m., Fox 13 reported Tuesday.

Deputies found the child in less than an hour because the agency’s aviation unit used a thermal imaging camera to locate her.

According to video footage the HCSO shared Tuesday, the aerial unit communicated with officers searching for the girl on foot, telling them “Hey, I think I got her in the woods. She might be able to hear her name if you call her. She’s gonna be about 80 feet in front of you. I got two deputies. Yep, just keep walking in that direction.”

The clip then shows several deputies finding the girl standing among the trees in shallow water. As they approach her, one of the officers opens his arms wide and says. “Hey! Yes, come on! Come on sweetheart!”

The child also holds up her arms and walks toward the officer who gathers her up and walks her out of the swamp to safety. The little girl was not hurt during the incident:

🚨 🚨On February 26, 2024, at 5:10 p.m., #teamHCSO's Aviation Unit was called to assist deputies in locating a five-year-old autistic child who had wandered away from home in Tampa.In under an hour, our deputies were able to locate the girl, who was found unharmed and returned to her family.*The child’s family has given HCSO permission to show her face in the video provided*"Their quick action saved the day, turning potential tragedy into a hopeful reunion," said Sheriff Chad Chronister. "Their dedication shows what service and protection are all about here at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office."You can read more about this case by following this link:

Posted by Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Sheriff Chad Chronister later told ABC Action News the officers “did a great job of making sure that she felt this warm environment, inviting environment, ‘Hey! Come to me!'”

He also noted he was thankful the rescue did not take a lot of time to complete.

“She could have slipped, she could have fell in the water and this outcome would have been much different,” he said.

According to the Autism Speaks website, autism refers to a range of conditions. People with the disorder can experience challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication.

“We know that there is not one autism but many subtypes, most influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges,” the site reads.

Social media users were quick to praise the deputies involved in the rescue, one person writing, “Thank God for these officers. There are still people who appreciate what you do.”

“I just love how the deputy greeted her. What a beautiful ending. You guys are the best!!!!!” another user wrote.


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