WATERVILLE — An alert woman and quick work by police helped return a boy with autism to his father Thursday morning after the 10-year-old wandered from his Maple Street home and was discovered swimming in a pool on High Street.

“We were able to reunite them, and there was no injury to the child, and we were very happy about that,” said Deputy Chief Charles Rumsey, of the Waterville police.

Rumsey said police got a call at 8:27 a.m. Thursday from a High Street resident who said she heard a splash outside her house, looked out and saw a young boy swimming in her above-ground pool in the backyard. She went outside to try to coax him out of the pool, but instead of communicating with her, he repeated her words back to her, according to Rumsey.

“She realized something was going on and called police,” Rumsey said.

Officer Dan Brown arrived minutes later and talked to the boy, who dove under the water when Brown spoke but eventually got out of the pool. Brown sat with him beside the pool and tried to get information from the boy, including his name and address, but to no avail.

Police checked the department’s Wanderers Database and found the name and address of a boy with similar characteristics. But when officers went to the home, the other boy was there with his parents, according to Rumsey. The Wanderers Database is a program in which families or guardians of those who tend to wander, such as people with dementia or autism, may fill out a form with the person’s name, photo and description so that if he or she becomes lost, police will have information to help them find the person.

Brown took a cellphone photo of the boy who was discovered in the swimming pool and sent it to Officer Damon Lefferts, Waterville’s school resource officer, but Lefferts didn’t recognize him, according to Rumsey.

When police sent the photo to George J. Mitchell School Principal Allan Martin, he identified the boy immediately, Rumsey said.

Sgt. Dan Goss contacted the boy’s father on Maple Street, about three-tenths of a mile away, and the father said he had fallen asleep with his baby after having been up all night and that is apparently when the boy left the home. The father followed Goss to High Street and was reunited with his son and they returned home, Rumsey said.

“He was horrified and very concerned about his son having been out of the house,” Rumsey said.

Rumsey said the boy had been at the woman’s home about a half-hour. At a minimum, the boy crossed busy Maple and High streets to get to the swimming pool.

“He traveled quite a distance and crossed a couple of busy streets and went for a swim in the pool,” he said. “We were very fortunate, I think, that he was not injured on that trip and he was able to swim and the pool water was not over his head and we were able to find his home pretty quickly.”

Rumsey also cited The Wanderer’s Database as a good resource to use when someone is missing. Thursday’s incident is a perfect example of the database’s benefits, he said, because if the boy’s name, photo, address and physical description had been listed, they would have helped police find his parents sooner.

The boy’s father told police that the family had relocated to Waterville recently.

Rumsey said anyone who wants to add someone to the database may call the police department at 680-4700 or email Sgt. Jennifer Weaver, supervisor of the Waterville Regional Communications Center, at [email protected]

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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