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Miraculous moment, Florida deputies rescue lost 5-year-old boy from swampy water

A missing person's report for a five-year-old autistic Florida girl ended on a happy note thanks to sheriff's deputies who tracked her down with a drone.

Body camera footage captured the miraculous moment the little girl was rescued from a wooded and swampy area where she had left her home on Monday.

“On February 26, 2024, at 5:10 p.m., the HCSO Aviation Unit was called to the 5000 block of Windbrush Drive in Tampa to assist deputies in locating a five-year-old girl who had left her home on foot,” Hillsborough said. County Sheriff's Office reported in a press release.

“Using a thermal imaging camera, the Air Force found the girl walking through a heavily wooded area with wetlands. In the footage, the child can be seen approaching a body of water,” the statement continued.

“Recognizing the impending danger, the aviation unit worked quickly, guiding officers on the ground to her location, where she was found safe and uninjured,” he concluded.

Thermal camera footage helped deputies on the ground reach the autistic girl who was pulled from the swampy water, miraculously unharmed.

“They thought he was at the neighbor's house,” Sheriff Chad Chronister said of the parents looking for the boy, he said. WFLA. “They go to the neighbor's house and realize that she is not there, no, we haven't seen her. Now the panic is starting to set in.”

“In situations like this, every second counts, and it's always gratifying to see this quick response for our deputies and to see such a positive outcome,” Chronister said.

“When you have to work with people who suffer from autism, there are a lot of obstacles that are created,” he said. “One is that they are attracted to water. The second is that they often struggle with communication.”

Video footage showed how the technology was used to locate the girl and bring her attachments to her in no time.

“Hey, I think I got her in the woods, she might hear your name if you call her now,” a deputy can be heard saying during the search. “It's about 80 feet running. I have two deputies moving in that direction.”

“Oh, there it is,” said another deputy on foot.

“Hey babe,” said one reaching out to pull her up and out. “Let's get you out of the water.”

“We were looking for you, honey,” the deputy told her after returning her to the rescue vehicles.

Chronister described the “Safety Net” program that helps find missing children with autism or older adults.

“We have it in our aviation units and we have it in some of our cars, where we can focus on that beacon and help us recover those individuals sooner rather than later,” he said.

Chronister praised deputies for acting quickly to save the boy Monday.

“His quick action saved the day, turning a potential tragedy into a hopeful meeting,” the sheriff said in a statement. “Their dedication shows what service and protection here at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is all about.”


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Miraculous moment, Florida deputies rescue lost 5-year-old boy from swampy water
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