A New York man is being hailed a hero for helping save a missing teenager with autism after finding the boy asleep in his shed during a nor’easter, officials said.
Joseph Barbella, 16, had last been seen at his Franklin Square home on Long Island about 7 p.m. Monday, as residents prepared for a severe storm that was expected to bring high wind gusts, heavy rain and coastal flooding to the area, authorities said.
Barbella, who has autism, had on only a dark grey long sleeve shirt, black wrestling tights and black sweatpants when he disappeared, police said. He was also not wearing shoes, cops said.
From his nearby home, Mike Caputo could hear police helicopters circling the neighborhood and texted a neighbor, who told him a teen was missing, he said at a news conference Wednesday.
Remembering a TV program he had seen that noted people with autism often seek hiding spaces, Caputo decided to check his backyard shed, about five blocks from the Barbella home.
He found Barbella asleep on the floor at about 7 a.m. Tuesday.
It had been 12 hours since he had went missing, police said.
“I think he must have been using my golf bag as a pillow,” Caputo, a Hempstead Town employee, told reporters Wednesday, according to Newsday.
Not wanting to startle the teen, Caputo covered him with a blanket and called 911.
Barbella was reunited with his family and is doing well, authorities said.
“You're a true hometown hero who reunited a missing special needs child with their family. Our community is forever grateful!” Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino said on Facebook.
Santino presented Caputo with a key to the town Wednesday.
“Mike Caputo is a unique hero who went above and beyond what most people would do to rescue a young man with autism during a vicious nor’easter,” he said.