Missing toddler found after 2-hour search

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 17, 2011

By Mark Wineka
SALISBURY — The all-out search Sunday afternoon for a 21/2-year-old boy ended happily for his family and rescue teams when he was found sitting quietly in tall weeds just 30 feet from the end of his parents’ yard.
During the two-hour search, numerous people were within a few feet of David Croyle without knowing it. The youngster displays autistic-type behavior and has therapists who visit him weekly at his Archer Farm Drive home.
“He doesn’t cry out, and he doesn’t respond to his name,” his father, Jerald Croyle, said. “The only way to find him was to put eyes on him.”
When he left the Croyle’s yard about 1 p.m. Sunday, young David entered some overgrown vegetation between the end of the subdivision’s cul-de-sac and the gas pipeline right of way.
The terrain beyond this Archer Farm cul-de-sac is a combination of overgrowth and woods. David Croyle apparently decided to sit down almost immediately after entering the weeds and stayed there, not making a sound.
“He didn’t know what to do,” his father said.
A member of the Rowan Rescue Squad found David during a grid search that funneled out from the cul de sac and the edge of the Croyles’ yard.
The Archer Farm subdivision, which includes about 20 houses, is located off Young Road, about a half-mile from U.S. 601, north of Salisbury.
Members of the rescue squad, Franklin and Ellis fire departments, on-duty and off-duty sheriff’s department personnel, law enforcement canines, a highway patrol helicopter and neighbors all responded to the search.
Croyle estimated that he, five dogs and 15 deputies were probably within 15 feet of his youngest son at one time or the other before he was located.
Croyle, who is out of work while recovering from recent surgery, has a law enforcement background and has been involved in these same kinds of searches.
“It was very difficult being on the other side,” he said.
He understood, Croyle added, how an emotional family can be a hindrance to a search, “but it’s a hard thing to sit here.”
Crystal Croyle said the family wants everyone who helped to find David know how much they are appreciated.
“There’s no way to thank them — we can’t thank them enough,” she said.
By late Sunday afternoon, David was taking a nap.
“He was completely and utterly oblivious to the whole thing,” Crystal Croyle said.
David and his 4-year-old brother routinely play in both the front and back yards at the end of this quiet street, and Crystal was with David in the front when she walked into the house for 2 minutes to check on lunch.
When she returned and couldn’t find him, she and Jerald searched everywhere before calling 911 after 10 minutes.
“He’s extremely mobile … he’s a typical 21/2-year-old in every sense of the term, but he doesn’t speak,” Jerald Croyle said. “He doesn’t respond to his name.”
David does respond, however, to what he sees. Therapy he has been receiving is helping, his father adds.
Crystal Croyle said she was concerned that her son might have fallen and broken a leg and wouldn’t call out for help. Or what if he was bitten by a snake, she asked herself.
Jerald Croyle said David apparently was downwind from where the dogs had been searching, and they could not pick up his scent.
A grid search lines up the available manpower virtually shoulder-to-shoulder, and they walk in the same direction, looking at every inch in front of them.
It proved to be the perfect answer.
“As soon as they stepped in the weeds, they saw him there,” Crystal said.
David was wearing jeans, a T-shirt, tennis shoes and a diaper.
When he was found, he was sitting and not upset.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.