A young autistic woman who went missing for nearly 10 hours in sub-zero temperatures Tuesday was found unharmed early yesterday morning.
Police say a member of Halifax Ground Search and Rescue located Jennifer Graves-Smith just after 1 a.m. in the lobby of an apartment building. The 18-year-old student at Halifax West High School did not take her assigned bus home, and was last seen wandering down a wooded path around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.
“When we found her, she was fine,” said police spokesman Brian Palmeter. “She was checked out by (paramedics) and returned home.”
According to Palmeter, it remains unclear if Graves-Smith was exposed to the elements the entire time she was missing. At one point Tuesday, the mercury dipped to a bone-chilling –18 C, not including the windchill.
“Certainly, given the temperatures we’ve been having, it was a concern for us,” Palmeter said. “Fortunately, she was inside when we found her.”
Halifax West principal Gary Walker could not be reached for comment yesterday, but Halifax Regional School board spokesman Doug Hadley said school officials were “relieved she was found safe and sound.”
Palmeter said this situation was somewhat different from the disappearance of seven-year-old James Delorey in early December.
Delorey, who was also autistic, wandered away from his Cape Breton home and into the nearby woods right before a major snowstorm hit the area. He was found after 48 hours of intensive searching, but died in hospital the following day.
“We weren’t worried so much about (Graves-Smith) wandering off into the woods,” Palmeter said. “The area where she was last seen was fairly open.”
Graves-Smith’s parents told the CBC last night they were relieved their daughter was found safe and thankful for everyone who helped in the search to find her.