7-year-old missing autistic boy found near Hilmar

Merced County sheriff’s deputies Thursday evening found a 7-year-old autistic boy who was missing earlier in the day in a remote area near Hilmar.

Isaac Sprague had been on an outing with his family and was practicing archery in the area of Kelly Road when he went missing about 11 a.m., the Merced County Sheriff’s Department said in a news release. He apparently walked away from his family’s van and disappeared, the Sheriff’s Department said.

Sheriff’s deputies with the department’s dive team reported finding the boy about 7:15 p.m., according to radio traffic. “The child is expected to be OK,” said Deputy Delray Shelton.

Sheriff Tom Cavallero said the boy was “very distraught, but alive.”

Shelton said the child was conscious when he was located and taken to an area hospital. Dive team members found the boy in a small body of water, lying on his back. Searchers heard a moan, which led them to the child.

The boy was last seen in a remote and heavily wooded area, near a body of water, officials said. The family searched the area near the Merced and Stanislaus county line for about an hour without success and then contacted law enforcement officials, the Sheriff’s Department said.

Isaac cannot communicate because of his autism, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

To aid in the search, the agency activated a Search and Rescue Team, air support and a K-9 unit that has the ability to track missing persons.

It was not clear Thursday exactly where authorities were searching for the child. The number of people involved in the search was also unknown.

Efforts to contact the child’s family by telephone were not successful on Thursday.