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July 11, 2013

Missing Cooperstown boy found in Utica

Mistaken by bus driver for child's brother, police say


By 10:40 a.m., police and firefighters were on the scene beginning a search and rescue that ended up lasting three hours. In addition to the Cooperstown police and fire departments, New York State Police and the Otsego County Sheriff’s Department responded. By 11 a.m., they had made an initial search of side streets and along a fast-flowing creek that takes rain run-off to the Susquehanna River.

The creek is the northern boundary of the Waddimba house, causing the search party to fear a tragic conclusion as they looked along the creek bed and in the tunnels underneath streets and some neighboring properties.

“In a situation like this, you can’t eliminate any possibility,” Covert said.

Not long after that, a county K-9 unit arrived and was given a small backpack that belonged to the boy to give the dogs his scent.

A small stretch of Glen Avenue, also known as state Highway 28, was shut down with traffic rerouted to Main Street. Media reports were issued and officials set up a center of operations at the Clara Welch Thanksgiving Home on nearby Grove Street.

By noon, police had a picture of Mutume and were stopping cars on Chestnut Street, showing it to all drivers and asking if anyone had seen the boy.

According to Covert, the police lines were jammed as people called, either with tips or to inquire how to help.

Forty-five minutes later, as the combined police groups were preparing a methodical grid search of the area, a call came from someone who had seen a small boy board a Birnie Bus. The search turned from apprehension to joy when it was confirmed that Mutume ended up in Utica.

“It works,” Covert said of coordinated efforts of the various police and rescue units and the media alerts. “The entire community reached out to help and we really appreciate it.”

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