9-year-old San Franciscan girl Mikaela Lynch was found dead within a creek nearby her family’s Lake County vacation home. The cheerful and smiley girl had the intellectual capacity of a 1-year-old, so her parents were alarmed when she was discovered to be missing. She and her younger brother had been playing on the trampoline when he escaped inside to avoid a bee. She in the meantime wandered off and apparently drowned in the creek. Chief Craig Clausen said a dive team discovered her around noon on Wednesday. There is no suspicion of foul play.
“It’s really tragic,” said police Sgt. Nick Bennett, as reported by the SFGate. “[She was] a sweet little girl. We had hopes it might turn out differently.”
Her grandfather described her as as a “Sweetheart” with an “ever-present smile….She loves running playing, extremely gregarious. Just a great laugh, a fantastic laugh.”
Many autistic children are attracted by water, and 91 percent found dead after missing have drowned, according to the National Autism Association. Further, half of autistic children are likely to wander from their homes at least once.
Autism is a spectrum disease with symptoms ranging from severe to mild; the milder cases are referred to as having “Aspergers’ syndrome” and can lead autonomous lives in some cases; others, like Mikaela, require constant attention and unfortunately can get into trouble if they wander off. Depending on their verbal level, they may not be able to explain who they are or where they are from.
Clearlake School District Gentle Blythe said in a statement that “Our heart goes out to the family of Mikaela Lynch. The Sunset Elementary community has been eagerly awaiting her safe return and is shocked and saddened by today’s news. The principal will be sharing the news with the school community and has assembled a crisis response team that is prepared to respond to the emotional needs of students.”