New York Teacher Vanishes After Getting Flat Tire on Highway

Police are searching for a teacher who disappeared after apparently getting a flat tire and pulling over to the side of a busy highway in Long Island, N.Y.

Leah Walsh, 29, who teaches autistic and other special education children at the School for Language and Communication Development in Glen Cove, was reported missing by the school Monday morning, said Lt. Kevin Smith, a spokesman for the Nassau County Police Department.

Hours later Walsh's father, school bus driver Howard Hirschel, aware that his daughter was missing, found her car, a 2005 black Ford Focus, disabled and abandoned along the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway in Bethpage.

Instead of calling police, however, he phoned the missing woman's husband, William Walsh, and summoned him to the scene. Hirschel then continued on to deliver the children in his bus to their school.

When Walsh arrived at the locked car, he called 911, Smith said, and police launched an exhaustive search for the woman, whose purse was in a ditch nearby.

Police helicopters, dogs and officers on horseback searched for hours in the area, which borders the massive Bethpage State Park, but came up empty.

Detectives were questioning Walsh on Tuesday, but police emphasized it was a routine part of the investigation and noted they had no suspects.

Leah Walsh, who usually leaves her home for work between 6:15 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., sent a text message to her husband at about 6:25 a.m., telling him to "have a great day," William Walsh told a reporter for 1010 WINS radio.

"That's the last I heard from her," he added through sobs.

Police also noted that a state Department of Transportation HELP vehicle, which assists motorists with car trouble, left a sticker on the side of Leah Walsh's abandoned car at about 6:30 a.m. The stickers are used to notify police that a vehicle was undergoing some kind of mechanical difficulty.

The couple, who live in Bethpage, have been married for three years; they have no children, Smith said.

An emotional Walsh appealed to the public to help bring his wife home.

"You can have my cars," he told reporters outside his in-laws' home in Rockville Centre. "You can have everything. I just want my wife back."

Police said they were treating Walsh's disappearance as a missing persons case, not an abduction, the New York Daily News reported.

A close friend of the young woman told the Daily News that she was distraught about problems in her marriage after having a "huge fight" with her husband Sunday.

Lucas Bean, who said he's known Walsh she was a freshman in college, said she texted him while she was on the way from her parents' house in Rockville Centre to her apartment in Bethpage.

"She was telling me that things are not going to work out with her and her husband and she had to tell me something very important, but she needed to wait til she got out of the car with him," Bean, 32, of Los Angeles, told the paper.

"She was in the car with him texting to me so that was Sunday night and they were in a huge fight," Bean continued.

Bean told the paper he never learned what the fight was about.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.