PUBLISHED: June 21, 2007 at 11:01 p.m. | UPDATED: November 14, 2015 at 7:12 a.m.
A 5-year-old autistic girl who apparently slipped past her mother and wandered from her Blaine home accidentally drowned Thursday in a nearby pond, authorities said.
The body of Kaylie Dickerson was recovered about 3:30 p.m. from a private retention pond near her home at the corner of Vermillion and 129th courts northeast.
She is believed to have slipped out of her house about 1:15 p.m. Her mother, who was home at the time, called police within minutes of realizing her daughter was missing.
By 3 p.m., Anoka County sheriff’s officials were hunting for the girl with the help of a dog team, a State Patrol helicopter and several neighborhood volunteers – roughly 50 people in all.
Searchers soon found a pillow Kaylie often clung to across the street to the east of her home, close to the edge of the pond.
A sheriff’s team in water rescue gear found Kaylie’s body and tried unsuccessfully to revive her.
Blaine Police Chief Dave Johnson said there was no hint of foul play.
“It was just a tragic, tragic accident,” Johnson said after notifying the family. Johnson said he believed Kaylie was the couple’s only child.
Police detectives inside the home told Johnson the family was cognizant of the child’s disability and had taken extensive precautions to prevent her from leaving the house of her own.
What the precautions were and how they failed remained unclear to Johnson.
Kaylie’s parents, identified by a neighbor as Darrin and Anissa Dickerson, did not return a call for comment.
The pond lies on the far eastern edge of the Quail Creek subdivision, a heavily wooded development just north of Pioneer Park in northern Blaine.
While many children with autism can be high-functioning, “one of the challenges of younger children on the spectrum is that they really do not have an awareness of danger. A 5-year-old might have the self-preservation skills of a toddler,” said Sandy Dolce, a parent advocate for the Autism Society of Minnesota.
“They often tend to be really focused on certain things. They can focus to a such a degree (on one thing) that everything else around them goes unnoticed,” Dolce added. “Even with the best precautions, it’s very, very challenging for parents. My heart goes out to them.”
Roughly two years ago in Blaine, a similar tragedy took place.
In August 2005, 4-year-old Olivia Leigh Carsen also apparently wandered from her home into a retention pond a short distance away. Family members found her minutes later but could not revive her; she was declared dead at the hospital later that day.