DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Police said a missing 11-year-old Daytona Beach boy was found safe in the Jacksonville area Friday morning after he fell asleep in the bed of a pickup truck, as first reported by WKMG in Orlando.
Daytona Beach police said Friday that the boy left his home on Thursday and crawled into the bed of the pickup.
The driver, unaware the boy was in the truck, traveled to Jacksonville on Friday and discovered the boy when he arrived, police said. Investigators said he then called police.
The boy’s mother, Mercedez Major, says she got home from work Thursday evening and noticed her son, EJ, wasn’t home. They began searching.
The father, Eleaser Johnson, said he’s thankful for the efforts of the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.
“The drones, they sent out the helicopter, they patrolled the streets, they brought the dogs,” Johnson said.
The driver of the truck contacted News4JAX, saying he wanted to share what happened. The man, who spoke on a condition of anonymity, said the boy was startled and cold -- wearing shorts and flip-flops.
The driver said he left Daytona at about 5 a.m., where he has a construction job. He said he stopped at a Gate gas station off Old St. Augustine Road at about 6:40 a.m.
While driving, he said, he did notice something strange.
“I noticed my tarp flapping in the back of my truck,” he said.
He said it wasn’t until he got to his other office at 9 a.m. that he discovered the boy in the bed of the truck.
“I get to work, I needed some tools out of my truck and noticed the tarp lying in the back of my truck,” he said. “I went to reach for it and a young man pulled it back and I said, ‘What are you doing in my truck?’”
The driver said he told the boy to get into his truck.
“He looked at me — he wouldn’t say a word,” the driver said. “He looked at me with a look of complete and utter terror. And it scared me. It broke my heart.”
He then drove to the Gate on Old St. Augustine Road, where they met with officers.
EJ is doing OK. The driver also gave EJ some pizza and a long sleeve shirt to help warm him up
News4JAX asked why EJ left home on his own without saying anything.
“I didn’t want to do homework,” he replied.
His parents are grateful he’s home safe.
“We just we praise God that he’s home,” Johnson said.
Editor’s note: News4JAX has decided not to name the boy and show his photo because he is no longer missing and was found safe.