Autistic boy rescued from muddy New Jersey creek

March 25, 2013 3:56:58 AM PDT
Authorities say an autistic child who became stuck in a muddy southern New Jersey creek was rescued by police officers just minutes before he may have drowned.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports the East Greenwich boy went missing around 3:45 p.m. Saturday. Numerous law enforcement agencies immediately began searching for the child, and about 90 later he was found at Mantua Creek, not far from his home.

The boy was submerged in mud up to his neck when police arrived, and the tide was rising. Several officers then made their way across the creek and furiously dug through the muck with their hands to free the boy, whose name and age were not disclosed.

"They saw him sinking in the mud and heard him screaming," East Greenwich Police Chief Barry Jenkins told the newspaper. "They got under his armpits and pulled him from the muck."

Jenkins said the child was unclothed when he was pulled free, and the chief did not know whether the clothes were stuck in the mud or whether the child had discarded them.

Shortly after the boy was freed, the officers had to assist a colleague who had become trapped in the muck. But he was soon freed by his colleagues as another officer swam the child back across the creek to safety. The child was then reunited with his father and taken to a hospital for evaluation, but he did not appear to be seriously injured.

Jenkins said the officers acted quickly and didn't take time to remove their weapons or gear, which may have been ruined by the brackish water and dirt. Given recent budget cuts, Jenkins said he was not sure the department had the money for replacements.