DAVENPORT, Fla. (WFLA) – A Florida woman who helped a missing 3-year-old boy with autism reunite with his family was still marveling Tuesday at how well the potentially tragic situation ended.
“It was just so emotional, just seeing them reunite again,” said Karyna Minchala Tuesday afternoon.
But Minchala’s day did not begin with much hope. Instead, she was filled with fear.
Around 3:30 a.m., she awoke to the sound of helicopters overhead. Deputies were looking for the boy, who went missing from a home on Acorn Court in the Solterra Resort subdivision in Davenport. He and his family were visiting from out of town.
The family told deputies they had checked on the boy at 1 a.m.
“At about 2:45, they noticed the front door was open and Thomas was not there anymore,” said Alicia Manautou, a public information officer with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. “The fact that Thomas had autism heightened that need to find him rather quickly.”
Deputies from the Polk and Osceola County Sheriff’s Office searched by ground and by air for the boy.
“We have a wildlife preserve, so my biggest fear is I hope this baby’s OK. My biggest fear was that something happened,” Minchala said.
Minchala awoke again at around 7 a.m. and checked her HOA’s website. There was a message from Alert Polk about the missing toddler.
“I immediately said let me go check the bins, let me check under the car,” she said.
Then, she asked her neighbor if he knew anything and he told her there was a little boy sleeping on his porch swing.
“I was telling him, ‘Baby, baby wake up.’ Because I didn’t know at that point if he was OK, ‘Baby wake up.’ I tapped him and he looked up. I said ‘Baby, do you want to go see mommy?’ And he was like, ‘mommy, mommy yea’,” she said.
With the boy in her arms, Minchala called 911.
“I got the little boy,” she is heard saying on the 911 call. “It’s OK, baby.”
Minchala held the child until he was reunited with his parents.
“Emotional, very emotional. I’m just happy that they found their baby. Not many people are very lucky,” said Minchala.