Crime & Courts

Two wandering toddlers found safe

For almost an hour Tuesday, all police officers and firefighters knew was that a 3-year-old girl and a 1-year-old boy were missing — for hours — from their apartment.

And not just that — they were missing from an apartment complex that sits on the banks of the Little Arkansas River near Central Riverside Park. A pathway, stairs and a ramp lead to the river. After all the rain, the river was up.

Emergency workers weren't the only ones fearing the worst less than a week after a 3-year-old Wichita boy drowned in a nearby lake after slipping out of his south-side apartment while his mother slept.

This time, there was immense relief: Police said that the two young children were found safe shortly before 1 p.m. Tuesday, almost an hour after police, fire and rescue vehicles began pulling into the parking lot at Barclay Square Apartments, 550 W. Central.

Before the children were found, rescuers had put a boat in the water and were probing with long poles along the riverbank. They were preparing to search by grid.

The children, a 1-year-old boy in a diaper and 3-year-old girl in "Princess and the Frog" nightwear, had been seen next to Building 14 at about 9:45 a.m. by a Mayflower moving truck crew.

The mother of the children had gone to work and returned home for lunch, police Lt. James Espinoza said. The mother last saw the children around 8 a.m.

When she returned, she found the apartment door unlocked and the children missing. Their father was asleep while she was gone, Espinoza said.

They called 911 shortly after noon, and the search began. Authorities learned the children were found sometime between 9:30 and 10 a.m. by a relative or family friend two buildings from where they live, Espinoza said.

Police were interviewing the parents and the woman who found the children. It wasn't yet clear how the woman found them and where they were while they were missing, Espinoza said.

Officers carried the two children to the complex clubhouse shortly before 1 p.m. They appeared to be fine.

Espinoza said police officials were particularly concerned about the children's disappearance because of the complex's proximity to the Little Arkansas.

The complex backs up to the south side of the river, where it bends by Central Riverside Park.

After the girl and boy were found, Talya Maxey, who said she was a close friend of the children's family, said she was "just happy that they're alive and OK."

"The worst things went through my mind," she said.