Avonte Oquendo, a 14-year-old autistic New York City teen who has been missing for almost a month may have been spotted on an E or F train near West 4th earlier this week by a fellow train rider. The photo was taken by a 13-year-old boy who allegedly didn’t want to be identified because he wasn’t supposed to be on the train at the time the photo was taken. So he posted the photo on Facebook and it’s gone viral.
The boy snapped the photo and asked the young man, who looked just like Oquendo–if he was indeed Avonte–and the boy didn’t respond and just blank stared. The photo taker then got off the train. As it stands, the real Avonte hasn’t been seen since he walked out of the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City on Oct. 4.
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“Yes, it’s a close likeness,” his father, Daniel Oquendo, told the New York Daily News. “We need to get a better look to really tell. If we could find the individual who took the picture, that would help big time.” Even though the young man who took the photo didn’t want to be identified, he should offer any more information that he may have to the authorities. The fact that the boy on the train didn’t respond makes us feel is could possibly be Avonte, as Avonte is Autistic and doesn’t speak. Avonte also has a fascination with trains. These two small details provide a small hope that the boy in the photo is actually Avonte.
“We’re praying it was him and there’ll be an opportunity to find him,” Avonte’s father told Newsday in reference to the new photo. “Maybe somebody just put him on the train, just to give him up. He was dressed differently, so it’s obvious somebody’s been taking care of him — if that’s him.”
Avonte’s mother, Vanessa Fontaine is optimistic about her son being found, but doesn’t truly believe that it’s him in the photo. “I don’t celebrate yet, but I’m saying keep hope alive,” Fontaine told CBS New York. “There’s hope there that it may be him.” Vanessa is only speaking on the fact that the family has been shown countless photos of possible spotting of Avonte since he’s been missing and so far, nothing has panned out.
The Oquendo’s family suffering is all too common. Reports claim that half of all Autistic children wander off from safety in search of something that interests them. “Children with autism often have a diminished sense of fear, so they can quickly get in harm’s way,” said Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer of Autism Speaks, a science and advocacy organization based in New York City. “As a clinician who has worked with families of children with autism, I can recall many instances when families were struggling to keep their children safe.”
We’re definitely holding on to hope that Avonte will come home safe and sound.
Anyone with information should call the NYPD Crime Stoppers hotline at 800-577-TIPS.
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