Dylan Mark Walsh was looking at boats with his father when he disappeared from a dock at the Fish N’ Pig restaurant late Saturday night.
After an extensive search on land, air and water, the 3-year-old autistic boy’s body was found at about 10 a.m. Sunday about 12 feet under water near the docks of the restaurant at 6420 Moseley Dixon Road.
“This is certainly not the outcome that we wanted,” Bibb County Sheriff David Davis said shortly after divers from the Macon-Bibb County Fire Department located the body. “We were hoping someone would call us and say that he had gone home with them, or that we would find him on the shoreline somewhere OK, but tragically that was not to be in this case. So, it’s a sad ending.”
Those keeping vigil with Dylan’s distraught father and stepmother said the boy vanished in the time it took his dad to turn and shake hands with a boater letting them have a look at his vessel.
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People frantically dove in looking for him, but could not find him Saturday night.
Deputies with tracking dogs searched the shore line, while rangers from Lake Tobesofkee and the Department of Natural Resources put boats on the water overnight, said Deputy Clay Williams, a public information officer for the sheriff’s office.
At daylight, searchers fanned out on nearby streets, making sure the boy hadn’t crawled up on porch furniture and gone to sleep.
People who were at the lake Saturday night were asked to look in their cars and boats before leaving.
At about 9:30 a.m. Sunday, a Georgia State Patrol helicopter slowly circled the shore near the restaurant as the divers searched near where the boy was last seen.
“It was truly a team effort. On any kind of a tragedy like this, no one agency can do it by themselves,” Davis said. “It takes a team and that team was out here all night.”
Dylan, who would have turned 4 in October, was supposed to start school Monday at Northwoods Academy.
His teacher, Carol Gledhill, came out to the lake Sunday morning, figuring he would be scared if he were lost all night.
Searchers were hoping he might turn up hiding somewhere.
“He’s little. He’s a little bitty 3-year-old,” said Gledhill, who had been working with Dylan preparing him for school.
News of the boy’s disappearance struck a nerve with other parents of autistic children, like Janet Ward, who co-founded Central Georgia Autism.
“Autistic children are drawn to water. They’re just fixated on it,” Ward said. “Love and prayers to that family.”
The community, particularly folks commenting about the tragedy on social media, need to learn more about autism, she said.
Ward invited people to visit www.centralga autism.org to better understand autism and find added safety measures, such as GPS tracking bracelets for autistic children.
“They are prone to wander,” she said.
Benefits, including help with burial expenses, are available through grants, she said.
Bibb County Coroner Leon Jones will request an autopsy at the GBI Crime Lab in Macon, but no foul play is suspected in what appears to be an accidental drowning.
To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303 or follow her on Twitternote>