Recording of mother's voice used in frantic search for missing autistic teen
Look for the lights, Avonte.
Authorities in New York frantically searching for a missing autistic boy are hoping Avonte Oquendo listens to his mother and walks toward the flashing lights.
Using a recording of the voice of the 14-year-old boy’s mother, a van from Citywide Disaster Services toured the Queens neighborhood on Wednesday near where Avonte — who is unable to communicate verbally — disappeared after inexplicably running out of his school on Oct. 4.
“Hi Avonte, it’s mom. Come to the flashing lights, Avonte,” the boy’s mother, Vanessa Fontaine, said in the recording. “It’s mom, Avonte. Hi Avonte, come to the flashing lights. It’s mom.”
Keith Brooks, program director at Citywide Disaster Services, a nonprofit organization that provides emergency communication services via specialized radio programs, told FoxNews.com that the truck scoured the Long Island City section of Queens on Wednesday and will again on Thursday.
“Over and over again, we’ve been playing it,” Brooks said of the brief recording. “We’re hoping he hears it and is not afraid of the lights and will hopefully walk toward them.”
Brooks said Thursday’s search marked the first time the organization’s Mobile Command Center utilized a recording to potentially locate a missing person. A $70,000 reward is being offered for information on the boy’s whereabouts.
On Wednesday, New York Police Department Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the school safety officer who was the last person to see Avonte did nothing wrong. Kelly said the officer encountered the boy at the front door of the Riverside School in Queens and told him to go back upstairs, but Avonte instead exited a side door. The boy’s parents have since indicated they intend to sue the school.
Police have said Avonte — who was last seen wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black sneakers — is fascinated with trains, leading authorities to search all city subway stations and tunnels. Authorities are also coordinating with law enforcement officials in New Jersey and Long Island in case he boarded a train leaving the city.
The boy’s older brother has also taken matters into his own hands, reportedly using a kayak on Tuesday to search the waters off Queens for any clues that might lead to Avonte. A 90-minute search, however, yielded nothing, the New York Post reports.
“I’m getting anxious,” Daniel Oquendo Jr., 26, told the newspaper. “We need more information and leads but there hasn’t been much lately.”
NYPD divers in scuba gear also searched Newtown Creek without success as other officers canvassed the area on foot for the missing boy.
“We’re focusing our efforts,” NYPD Chief of Department Philip Banks told the Post. “We’re bringing in new officers who haven’t searched this site before just to get fresh eyes on this. We are not giving up hope that we can find this young man and deliver home to his family.”
Anyone with information regarding the boy is asked to call NYPD officials at (800) 577-8477.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.