Search for 12-year-old boy with autism in water behind Akron apartments now recovery effort

AKRON, Ohio - A recovery effort for a 12-year-old boy in an Akron creek is underway after the search was called off Thursday night.

Rescue crews have been at the scene through the morning Friday. Ohio State Highway Patrol has sent a helicopter to assist with the search.

Crews were called to Hemlock Hills Drive in the Timber Top Apartments just before 6 p.m. on Thursday for a report of a 12-year-old boy in the water. Akron police said the 12-year-old, Nicholas Shaffer, is autistic and was dangling his feet in the water. He then jumped into the creek near the apartment complex where he lives. 

"Mom actually was sitting with him on a retaining wall when he jumped in. She tried to grab him and she jumped in the water and tried to grab on to him but the current was so strong it just took his body downstream," said Lt. Rick Edwards of the Akron Police Department. 

At that point, a few Good Samaritans ran to the family's aid. Kaila Watkins told NewsChannel5 she heard screams from Nicholas' sister and ran to help. Watkins said she was told by Shaffer's sister, Nicholas did not know how to swim. Watkins and her brother both jumped in Mud Brook telling NewsChannel5 they searched for around 30 minutes.

Another neighbor also joined the search. Kameron Williams described the brook's currents as so strong, all three neighbors, who said they know how to swim, struggled in the water.  "We went under, over, got stuck and we still couldn't find him. So we seen the rescue team maybe about 50 yards back and they had us get out the water but there was – I hope they find him," said Williams.

Williams said they exited the water near Akron Peninsula Road and Sycamore Lane.

"With all the rains we've had, the water level is very high and the current is very strong," Edwards said.

Fire department members pushed through the currents to search about five miles up and down the brook, which they said feeds into the Cuyahoga River. Edwards said more than 12 agencies assisted in the search with about five boats on the water. 

Nicholas was not found Thursday night. He is described to be 5 foot 1 and about 122 pounds with brown hair and freckles. The search resumed at 8:30 a.m. on Friday.

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