Bracelets could be lifesaver for kids with autism

9:53 PM, Apr 9, 2012   |    comments
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Holiday, Florida -- The tragic story of an 11-year old girl with autism who wandered away from a Riverview birthday party and drown in a nearby pond Saturday brought Monica Bice to tears.

"There are too many stories like this one," Bice told 10 News.  "It's heartbreaking."

Six-years ago Bice's daughter Jade became the first child in the Bay area to wear a radio locate bracelet under the Project Lifesaver program. Her daughter, like the girl who died over the weekend, is autistic.

"I was concerned about her wandering which is very common among children with autism. In fact drowning is the number one cause of death for children with autism."

The Pasco County Sheriff's Office joined Project Lifesaver in 2006. They were just the third county in the state to join. Now several law enforcement agencies are participating including the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, the Tampa Police Department and the Sarasota Police Department.

Ed Eckert, the Project Lifesaver coordinator with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office says the cost of the bracelet is $390. But he says the device gives parents like Bice peace of mind. He says there are about 70-people currently in the program in Pasco County.

Eckert says they change the batteries for the bracelets once a month and if they need to track someone down, it usually takes about 30-minutes. He says they have used the radio locates about a half dozen times since they started offering the devices.

"It's pretty simple. If (my daughter) was to wander off I just call 911, tell them that she has a locate device and they would send out a search team," Bice said.

Bice says thankfully she's never had to call the sheriff's office because her daughter was missing, but after what happened in Riverview, she's comforted knowing that she's at least taken some step to hopefully prevent a similar tragedy.

"I get sad and kind of angry every time I see it because it's preventable. It is so preventable. All you need to do is call the sheriff's office and get hooked up with the project lifesaver."


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