A 5-year-old girl with autism believed to have ventured away from home at the height of Tropical Storm Isaias’ assault on Pennsylvania was found dead on the edge of a creek Wednesday, police said.
Authorities said Eliza Talal wandered off from her Lansdale home shortly before noon Tuesday, a time when the National Hurricane Center was warning that tornadoes and 100 mph wind gusts were possible.
The girl’s body was located near a creek at a park in the neighboring community of Towamencin Township. A “community member” found her at about 10:40 a.m. on Wednesday, the township’s police chief, Tim Dickinson, said at a news conference Wednesday.
“She was actually found on the land in an area of foliage adjacent to the creek,” he said. “That would have been flooded during most of the period during the storm.”
Authorities using boats, helicopters and professional search-and-rescue crews conducted a massive search Tuesday and Wednesday that involved “several hundred” people, including community volunteers, he said.
The focus was the swollen creek behind the girl’s home, Dickinson said.
“She exited the residence at the height of the storm yesterday without her parents’ knowledge,” he said. “She left the house and somehow got into the water.”
Talal apparently left with her iPad and authorities tried to track the device, he said, but to no avail. The device was found under a neighbor’s deck, the chief said.
The girl was nonverbal as a result of her autism, prompting further concerns about her ability to survive during the storm that has now claimed eight lives up and down the East Coast.
Talal’s death was still under investigation as a matter of routine, the chief said. “We do not have any direct suspicion of any foul play,” he said.