A 3-year-old boy was found wandering alone through a 10-acre corn maze in northern Utah after his family left him behind, not realizing the small child was missing until the next morning, police say.
The distraught preschooler was discovered by a good Samaritan on Monday night near the entrance of the Crazy Corn Maze in West Jordan, near Salt Lake City.
“He was crying and upset and obviously scared,” Kendall Schmidt, co-owner of the corn maze, told The Washington Post in a phone interview Wednesday. “We were trying to calm him down.”
But Schmidt said maze workers and police were unable to locate the boy’s family and “we couldn’t get him to give us his name. He could say his brother’s name and his cat’s name, but not his own name.”
He was handed over to the Utah Division of Child and Family Services for the night. Then Tuesday morning, his mother noticed he was missing, police said.
Schmidt, 42, from South Jordan, said it is not unusual for family members to get lost or separated in the corn maze, so when someone first found the child, “we weren’t in panic mode right away.”
They waited about 30 minutes for the family to come looking for him.
Then, Schmidt said, an off-duty West Jordan police officer who was working at the maze took the boy to her patrol car, gave him a teddy bear and put “Finding Dory” on her laptop for him to watch. Security personnel started to search and Schmidt went through the maze with a bullhorn, calling out for anyone who might be missing a child, he said.
“It became evident that they were not in the maze, so we just kept waiting and hoping that the parents would realize that they left the child,” Schmidt said.
West Jordan Police Sgt. Joe Monson said authorities received a call from the mother about 7:45 a.m. Tuesday, worried she had left her son in the maze overnight. Monson said he did not know much about the boy’s family or how they were able to forget about him but he added that they live in a home with multiple families and a group of them had gone to the maze together Monday night.
It is unclear whether the boy has been released to family members.
Monson said the Division of Child and Family Services cannot release the status of the child because of privacy policies.
Ashley Sumner, a spokeswoman for DCFS, also said that she could not comment on the case or even confirm that the boy was taken into protective custody, but she said that, generally, in instances in which authorities are not able to locate a child’s guardians, the child is placed in an emergency shelter, with a foster family or with another relative.
The police sergeant said the incident is still under investigation and criminal charges could be brought in the case.