JONES COUNTY, Iowa - Authorities involved in the search for a missing Camp Courageous camper got the happy ending they were looking for Tuesday morning.
Charlie Becker, the camp's director, said the boy – who is 13 and autistic – was found Tuesday morning, approximately 14 hours after he had gone missing.
"The camper has been found," Becker said. "So, it's a happy ending."
The boy, who is not being identified, was found near the Maquoketa River, which borders Camp Courageous. The camp offers year round recreational and respite services for children with special needs.
Becker said the boy was walking and "appears to be fine," but will be taken to an area medical center to be evaluated. The situation is still "fluid," Becker said.
The boy was reported missing at 7:15 p.m. Monday. Becker said the boy was walking on a trail near the camp's "camp out site" with two counselors.
"The one counselor that was closest (to the boy) turned his back and he was gone," Becker said.
The remaining campers were gathered together in the lodge while staff searched for the missing boy. When the staff search turned up nothing, the authorities were notified and scores of agencies, including the Monticello police, fire and ambulance services, Jones County EMT, the Jones County Sheriff's Office, Jones County Emergency Management, Clinton County Emergency Management and the Iowa State Patrol, as well as search and rescue dogs, counselors, volunteers and the general public joined in the search.
"Everybody got involved very quickly," Becker said.
Where the boy went after he fled from the counselors and where he spent the night – Jones County, like much of Eastern Iowa, was hit with thunderstorms last night – is unknown at this time. Becker said the boy is "nonverbal," so authorities and camp staff won't likely have much luck getting information from him.
Becker said children with autism often have a unique affinity for water, which may explain why the boy was found near the river.
Becker has been with Camp Courageous for 34 years and he said this is the first time a camper has gone missing.
"Unfortunately, we'll be using this as an example forever," he said, adding that search and rescue procedures are covered during the staff's week-long orientation each year.