FRUITLAND — “Cornfields are being gone through row by row, inch by inch right now,” Fruitland Police Chief JD Huff said in an email update this morning about the search for a missing 5-year-old boy. While they haven’t searched the river yet, “due to a low probability,” they are actively searching ditches canals, he says.
First responders from a multitude of agencies as well as community members have been earnestly searching since Tuesday night, and are continuing their efforts this morning. The child, Michael Joseph Vaughan, of Fruitland, is 43 inches tall, 50 pounds, has blue eyes and blonde hair and answers to the nickname “Monkey,” according to a news release from Fruitland Police Chief JD Huff early Monday morning.
Michael was last seen on foot at about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday near his home on Southwest Ninth Street, and was said to be wearing a light blue Minecraft T-shirt with dark blue boxer briefs. Officers were dispatched at about 7:30 p.m. He is considered missing and endangered.
According to the release, local law enforcement, fire and EMS agencies, as well as “an extraordinarily large number of local residents,”searched the area by vehicle, foot and air by way of drones and a St. Luke’s helicopter. Additionally, forward-looking infrared/thermal systems were used with no success.
Idaho Mountain Rescue also joined the search, bringing a tracking K-9 in with their personnel, and is currently in the process “of a very thorough search of the entire search area.”
Community members may have joined in the search after hearing about the missing child on the Code Red System, which the Payette County Sheriff’s Office used multiple times Tuesday night to alert residents. According to Payette County Sheriff Andy Creech in an email this morning, the first alert was sent at 8:20 p.m. to the neighborhood and the last alert was sent at 11:20 p.m.
“The initial alert was sent to the neighborhood where the child lives, and then the area was expanded to include Fruitland, Payette, and New Plymouth,” Creech said.
The alert system attempted to make calls to 16,613 phones and 30 TDD numbers, as well as send 2,213 emails and 3,999 text messages, according to information provided by the Sheriff.
“There were four separate alerts sent out,” he said. “Citizens can sign up for Code Red through the Payette County Website.”
An initial post on Facebook was shared more than 1,000 times, Creech said.
The Sheriff’s Office also assisted Fruitland Police with the use of its drone.
“Our drone pilots responded to the area and helped search the area by air,” Creech said. “Our drone has a high-quality video camera and infrared camera.”
He said Adam Gonzalez, emergency manager for the county is the main pilot and drone program leader.
“The Fruitland Police Department would like to extend a sincere thanks to all our partner first responders and our community for taking the time to help us thoroughly search the area,” Huff stated. “As we continue the investigation, I am asking the community’s help with locating Michael Joseph Vaughn by remaining vigilant and observant.”