A 6-year-old went missing from an Aiken County school and was found off school property about half a mile away, running along a busy highway. (WRDW-TV)
News 12 First at Five / Thursday, Jan. 17, 2012
WINDSOR, S.C. (WRDW) -- For Miranda Bowles, taking her 6-year-old son to school has new meaning. Just last week, after dropping her son off at Oakwood-Windsor Elementary School, located just east of Aiken, she got a call no parent ever wants to get.
"I received a call 20 to 30 minutes after I left the school to tell me that my son had exited to the school," Bowles said.
The 6-year-old boy was nowhere to be found. Bowles later found out that he ran toward their home in Windsor along a very busy Charleston Highway, also known as Highway 78.
"There's so many Mack trucks and fast vehicles and everything else that go down this highway," Bowles said.
She says her son may not have been found if it weren't for a man who was driving to work when he saw the small boy running only feet from the highway. The man, Bryan Lindell, called 911.
"We're on the way to work on Highway 78, and we just passed right in front of Oakwood-Windsor Elementary School, and there's a little ol' fella by Highway 78 running down the road. I don't know if he slipped out of the school or whatever, but he's out there all by himself," he explained to the dispatcher in a copy of the recording News 12 obtained from the Aiken County Sheriff's Office.
"He was away from the school far enough to where nobody would have seen him, and he was 5 or 10 feet from the highway," Lindell later said to News 12 in an interview.
The 6-year-old later told his mother and News 12 that he made it all the way to a distinctive sprout of grass along the highway until a guidance counselor from the school came and escorted him back to school property.
If that's true, the child made it 2/3 of a mile from the school doors.
"Anything could have happened. Murder, kidnapping, an accident, anything," his mother said.
She told News 12 that she later transferred her son to another elementary school in Aiken County but only after she had to threaten the school district with legal action.
News 12 also spoke with Oakwood-Windsor Principal Debra McCord. She says the child felt his mother was in danger at home and that's why he left the building. He was bound and determined to leave, McCord says, and he found the perfect opportunity to sneak out unnoticed.
McCord says the school called the Aiken County Sheriff's Office, too, and teachers and administrators were following policy strictly. This was just a freak incident, she says. She adds that it could happen at any other school and that it has happened in other schools in the past.
However, she says, she has talked to teachers, and they're reemphasizing a buddy system to keep this from happening again.
Bowles says that while she greatly respects the teachers and principal of Oakwood-Windsor, she's speaking out to prevent this from happening again, too.