NEW PALESTINE — A missing 4-year-old boy with autism turned up safe nearly five hours after he was reported missing Saturday night, and authorities are crediting a small army of volunteers for helping find him.
Kyle Pierce wandered away from his home in the 3700 block of West CR 380S around 7 p.m.
Kyle is one of seven children. His mother, Sara Pierce, told officials one of Kyle’s older brothers was watching him when he disappeared. She told authorities her son is quick on his feet and took off out the door and ran into a nearby cornfield before the anyone could catch up with him. He was found about a mile away.
Dozens of trained rescue responders were on the scene in New Palestine to look for the boy.
Hancock County Sheriff’s deputies, Indiana State Police troopers, officers from Fortville and Greenfield, along with Sugar Creek Township emergency responders conducted the search.
An estimated 150 nearby residents, responding to pleas on social media and elsewhere, took part in the search for Kyle.
“It was phenomenal, the turnout,” Sheriff Mike Shepherd said.
One of the volunteers was family friend Lisa Belas, who said when she found out Kyle was missing she immediately went to the Frosty Boy ice cream stand in New Palestine and informed the crowd.
“Five or six different families immediately got up and joined in on the search when I made the announcement,” she said.
Shepherd said it was the first time in over 30 years that he could recall such a search.
After several hours of searching and no luck finding the boy, Shepherd said officials remained diligent and were determined not to abandon the search.
“It was never an option to call off the search,” Shepherd said.
With a police helicopter, bloodhounds, police officials and volunteers on hand, Shepherd said, officials believed it was just a matter of time before Kyle would be found.
Dozens of cars drove the nearby county roads, setting up a perimeter near the family home, while other volunteers rode four wheelers, golf carts and walked the area with flashlights.
“There was no way he was going to get out of there,” Shepherd said.
Still, the boy somehow was able to get a mile from his home before he was found in the woods by a volunteer, Shepherd said.
Once Kyle was found, the volunteer called authorities, who helped the pair get to safety.
On his Facebook page, Kyle’s father, Bill Pierce, wrote a heartfelt thank you.
“Thanks, everyone, for such a collaborated effort to find Kyle Dawson Pierce. Words cannot express Sara and my gratefulness to everyone seen and unseen here or not here but praying. Thank you all.”
Shepherd said the county is looking into a new type of tracking program for children similar to one used by the Greenfield Police Department for autistic people and the elderly where they are equipped with some type of tracking device to aid rescue workers.