Dad learns son in state custody was injured by train

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The father of the 15-year-old boy whose foot was severed when he tried to jump on a moving train tells Channel 4 he is heartbroken and frustrated.

According to Jacksonville police, Jayson Ahrens tried to jump on a train crossing Main Street about midnight Saturday as he tried to get back to the group home where he was staying before curfew.

The director of Panama House says Ahrens sneaked out of the juvenile home without permission.

Ahrens' father, Robert Elmore, who lives in Clearwater, said his son was placed with the Florida Department of Children and Families after the boy was kicked out of school for drug and alcohol problems, as well as anger issues.

Elmore said Tuesday that he thought the boy was in a secure mental health facility in the Clearwater area and does not know why he wound up in Jacksonville.

"I want him to realize people are trying to help him. I want him to come back home and have a normal life," said Elmore.

Elmore's biggest fear was that something terrible would happen to his son, but he never expected this, especially under the care of a licensed group home.

"He was supposed to be put in a facility where he doesn't go anywhere or try to run, to get off of drugs, to change his attitude about what how he is supposed to be instead of what he wants to become himself," said Elmore.

Elmore says he is devastated by the son's accident and doesn't know what the future will hold.

"That's going to kill him for the rest of his life. He's going to be mad at not just himself, but others," Elmore said. "That's another thing -- trying to get him in program. Now they've just proved a problem. Told him he was going to wind up dead or get hurt. He might be another runaway."

Elmore said he doesn't feel like he's gotten enough information from DCF.

John Harrell, DCF spokesperson, told Channel 4 he could not speak to specifics, but did provide a statement:
"DCF is sensitive to the needs of the children in these programs. Some have more needs than others, and we try to find the appropriate, compatible settings for them."

Willie Green, the director of Panama Youth Services, said his staff actually witnessed Ahrens leaving, but by law, no one was allowed to touch Ahrens or try to keep him from running away. Staff is required to document what happens and report it to a probation officer or counselor.

Elmore is currently not making plans to see his son.

"He is mad at the world and he does not want me to be there," said Elmore. "I told him this was going to happen and it happened."

Ahrens will be in the hospital at Shands for the next four to six weeks.

About the Authors:

Joy Purdy co-anchors the 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. newscasts with Tarik Minor and the 11 p.m. weeknight newscasts with Kent Justice.