A woman driving on Palm Coast Parkway was startled to find a 3-year-old boy wandering unattended, in traffic this afternoon around 1 p.m. She stopped and took care of the child until cops arrived: the boy had left of Roma Court Academy, the child care and pre-kindergarten center at Roma Court, and school personnel was unaware of his disappearance until they got a call about it.
Jim Troiano, the sheriff’s office’s chief spokesman, said the matter could have had a much worse ending but for the quick reactions of two good Samaritans: the first to call the academy was a Chinese food delivery driver, who spotted the child moments before the other driver stopped and took care of him.
“They didn’t know he was missing until they got a call from a Chinese food delivery driver in the area, he saw the boy unattended, he called, they began looking for him, and while they were looking for him is when the lady found him,” Troiano said.
Allie Strubble subsequently wrote on her Facebook page: “Driving down the parkway today and all of a sudden a 3-4 year old boy runs out from a daycare right into the road, all alone. Myself and three others stop to help and call 911 as a stranger holds someone’s precious child on the side of a busy street.”
The boy is from Ormond Beach. He claimed his father was in the hospital and he wanted to be with him, an account Troiano said appears not to have been backed up by any evidence gathered: the investigating deputy spoke with the father, who described his son as chronically adventurous and prone to such escapes. The father compared his son to a raccoon, according to Troiano, who was basing his account on notes from the investigating deputy.
The boy had ben attending Roma Court Academy for just two days. The incident unfolded as a group of children were about to be taken from one area of the school to another. Just at that moment, Troiano said, a child fell and drew the attention of a teacher. That’s when the 3 year old unlatched a gate and got out.
The sheriff’s office is not pursuing the case further, finding no criminal or intentional negligence on the part of the school. The boy, Troiano said, “capitalized on an opportunity that was presented to him.” Should that opportunity have been there at such a school? “Absolutely not,” Troiano said. But, he added, “it was an unintentional act. This certainly could have ended in much diff circumstances, the child could have been hit by a car, the child could have been abducted, the child could have wandered out into the woods and drowned.”
But good people intervened, Troiano said. “It gets back to that concept, see something, say something,” he said. “Had it ended differently, well that’s something we would have had to look at.”
Mark Aitchison, director of Roma Court Academy, could not be reached this afternoon. The school issued a statement on the incident, first reported by the Observer, though the statement shed little light on why the child could have wandered out: the school took no responsibility for the incident, offered no apology or regret, and went so far as to suggest that, despite requiring the involvement of public safety agencies and others, the school had no further responsibility to explain the incident than it did in the statement.
The statement read: “An incident involving a child occurred today at RCA. The child is perfectly fine and unharmed. The appropriate authorities have been notified, and RCA is complying with all obligations under controlling law and rule regarding the incident. RCA is meeting all requirements to report the facts of this incident timely, fully and truthfully to the appropriate authorities. It is important to note that this incident did not arise from any violation of RCA’s duties owed to students, parents or the law. The father of the child has asked that this incident not be further publicized. RCA will honor his wishes.”