JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Every second counts when a child is reported missing.
As investigators know, the task of tracking them down and bringing them home only grows more challenging with each passing moment. Most children are found within 48 hours of being reported missing, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
After that? The odds aren’t promising.
So, it was astonishing when two Jacksonville siblings, 6-year-old Braxton Williams and his 5-year-old sister, Bri’ya, were found in the woods Tuesday afternoon – 52 hours after seemingly disappearing from their Westside home while their parents prepared for a family barbecue.
“Time is the enemy when it comes to missing children,” said Robert Lowery, vice president of the NCMEC, the nation’s clearinghouse for cases involving missing children. “The longer they’re gone, the more difficult our job is at finding them and getting them back home.”
The siblings were reported missing about 1:30 p.m. Sunday, roughly two hours after they were last seen, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. An Amber Alert was issued about four hours later, leading to a massive search involving hundreds of personnel from local, state and federal agencies.
As the effort continued Tuesday, JSO Chief of Investigations T.K. Waters said time was of the essence as the search neared the “crucial” 48-hour mark. But several hours later, searchers caught the break they were hoping for when the children were found in a rundown building nestled in the woods.
It appears the children wandered away from home on their own, Sheriff Mike Williams said.