A 6-year-old boy took his battery-powered toy ATV car onto the Bronx River Parkway at around 7 p.m. Sunday before other motorists spotted the autistic child and formed a protective “shield” around him with their (grown-up) cars. The boy, whose name was not released, was playing with his family at a Mount Vernon park when he made his getaway – through the park and onto the northbound side of the parkway via Oak Street, about 10 blocks away.
Writes The Associated Press via ABC News: “Westchester County police spokesman Kieran O'Leary said three drivers formed a slow-moving shield around the boy on the Bronx River Parkway, then one pulled over and ran to grab the boy and his little vehicle and move them onto the shoulder.”
O'Leary said the motorists were preventing other drivers from hitting the boy. The speed limit on the parkway where the boy was rescued is 50 mph.
“A couple of cars were behind him, maybe another alongside him a little bit, somewhat protecting him from the possibility of being struck by a car that wouldn't have seen him in time,” O'Leary said.
O’Leary said that after the family realized that their son was missing, police started getting incoming 911 calls “that there's a child on the Bronx River Parkway operating a toy vehicle.”
“He took the Oak Street ramp going north, comes down the ramp, is in the acceleration lane and then actually in the right lane of the parkway for a brief time,” O'Leary said.
One of the good Samaritans who saw the boy driving his plastic ATV in the right lane of the parkway was Joel Reyes. Reyes, who was driving with his wife, and two other drivers formed a protective bubble around the boy, who seemed oblivious to the danger. Another driver, who also helped shepherd the boy off the road, said the 6-year-old was trying to pull into the center lane.
“You could barely see him driving by, especially in the parkway where people are driving, God knows, 50 or 60 miles an hour,” Reyes said.
Once they got him off the road, Reyes’ wife Ana Marina, a domestic violence counselor, talked with the boy.
“He was quiet and confused and scared. He said, ‘I want to go home. I want my mom,’” Ana Marina said.
The boy was checked out at Mount Vernon hospital and reunited with his family. He was being watched at the park by an older cousin, who lost track of him. Within a few minutes, the ATV, which travels at about 5 mph, was out of sight.
Richard Burke, Mount Vernon's deputy police commissioner, was surprised the boy got as far as he did.
“You wonder why somebody else didn't stop him before he got to the highway,” Burke said.
“I was surprised people were calling and not pulling over,” said Reyes. “It was a scary situation. God forbid somebody would have run into him. It could have been far worse than what it was.”