Lynchburg, VA - The death of a five-year-old autistic girl who wandered off and drowned in a lake last week in Hampton has left some local families of autistic children shaken.
Some of them say the worst part is, her death could have been avoided if she had been part of Project Lifesaver.
The program is a tracking system specifically designed to prevent a terrible accident like this. It focuses on those with mental impairments who tend to wander from their homes.
Here in Lynchburg, it has worked 80 times since its inception in 2002.
Anita Clark says it was tough to hear about the death of Kaymania Catta, who was found two blocks from her Hampton home at the bottom of a lake.
"You know, when they first realized she was missing, they probably could have found her in 15 minutes so that's always sad to hear," said Clark.
Anita says the topic is important to her because her adopted son Matthew also has autism and is also known to wander.
"If he gets a notion in his head that he wants something and he doesn't think we are hurrying enough, he knows how to walk up to Rivermont," said Clark.
That's where the tracking device comes in. About the size of a wrist watch, it's monitored by Lynchburg Project Lifesaver.
"The motto of Project Lifesaver is to bring your loved one home," said Chief Deputy Don Sloan.
The sheriff's office can track the frequency of each individual transmitter if the person becomes missing. And they're trained to do it quickly.
"Once the situation has been called in and the team responds to the last known point of origin where the person wandered from, the average time has been within 30 minutes," said Sloan.
Matthew is one of 28 Lynchburg residents currently in the program. His mother says it gives her peace of mind.
"It's just nice to know that it is there in case we need it," said Clark.
Project Lifesaver is also offered in the counties of Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford and Campbell.
It's not cheap, participants pay $25 a month.
The Lynchburg Sheriff's Office says if someone is unable to pay, they could still get the program.