Allentown, Pennsylvania, police Chief Keith Morris called Jayliel Vega Batista's death a "tragic accident."

By Caitlin Keating
January 03, 2016 10:10 AM
NBC search for a missing 5-year-old boy with autism came to a tragic end on Saturday when officials found his body in a canal.

Search dogs tracked Jayliel Vega Batista’s scent and a volunteer found his orange electronic tablet in the water, according to NBC10. They later found his body six feet deep in the water and about eight feet from the shore.

“Preliminarily, this is being considered a tragic accident,” Allentown police Chief Keith Morris told Reading Eagle. “At this point, we don’t believe there was any foul play involved.”

Batista wandered away from a New Year’s Eve party at his great aunt’s home in Allentown, Pennsylvania, according to the news outlet. While temperatures were near freezing, he was captured on a private surveillance camera around 11:02 p.m. running barefoot and coatless into the woods.

“He’s so strong,” his mother Yelitza Batista told The Morning Call before he was found. “I’m broken and empty. This is like a nightmare that I can’t wake up from. I know he’s crying for me, wondering what’s going on.”

His father Gilberto Vega said his son was a happy child who was fond of the water.

“I loved my son,” he told the news outlet. “He had no fear. He didn’t understand the dangers.”

While at the party on New Year’s Eve, Batista, the fourth of their five children, was playing in an upstairs bedroom with the electronic tablet, and when his father found him missing, they searched all around the house.

“He doesn’t speak, but he smiled a lot,” said Yelitza. “He loves music and loves to climb. He’s an adventurer. We watch him so close. I don’t know how he got past us.”

An autopsy is scheduled for Monday.