6 year-old autistic boy leaves home; man causes crash trying to help him

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SAGINAW (WJRT) (8/12/2019) - A Saginaw man trying to help a 6-year-old autistic boy who walked away from home admits to causing a crash Monday morning.

A 6-year-old autistic boy walked about 25 city blocks from home after getting out Monday morning. A man trying to help him caused a minor crash.

But he and the man he hit are both glad the child was returned home safe.

The chain of events started with a frantic 911 call about a half hour before the crash from the boy's mother after she discovered he was missing. She woke up, found the back door open and the boy gone.

Police started searching around the boy's home on Cass Street on Saginaw's west side. Jeff Corne noticed the boy walking in the area of Bay and Court streets, which is very busy.

"Walking with no shoes caught my attention," he said.

Corne pulled up alongside the boy and asked him if he was OK. The child replied that he found his way and figured out where he's going.

Corne drove off, but encountered the child again about 20 blocks from where he first saw him.

"I couldn't leave him in good conscience knowing that he is walking around barefoot, still in pajamas," he said.

Corne's wife was on the phone with Saginaw County Central Dispatch when he attempted to turn left from the center lane into a parking lot where the child was walking. He didn't see another SUV in the left lane.

"I was focused on the boy," Corne said. "I should have been more aware of where I was."

The crash happened and then police arrived to pick up the 6-year-old, who was returned to his parents. The child was about 25 city blocks from his home.

Deleonce Williams, who was driving the SUV that Corne hit, had just picked up his new ride. He's disappointed will have to go to the body shop, but he's happy a missing child was found.

"I totally understand that," Williams said. "The first, main thing, was to make sure the child's safety was first, walking around, so I definitely understand that, these things happen."

Police say the call from Corne is a perfect example of someone noticing something that didn't seem quite right.

"People just need to be vigilant, and say 'Hey, that doesn't look right.' Just call 911," said Saginaw Police Department Det. Sgt. Matt Gerow.

Police say this case was not negligence by the mother, because the child with autism wandered away while she was sleeping. The boy's mother is happy Corne tried to get involved and that nobody was hurt in the crash.