Friday, October 24, 2014

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Family Holds Vigil For Missing Queens Teen

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The reward is now $70,000 for information leading to the safe return of Avonte Oquendo, the boy with autism who vanished a week ago after walking away from his school, and his parents and supporters held a vigil across the street from that school Friday evening. NY1's Arlene Borenstein filed the following report.

With no sign of Avonte Oquendo, a candlelight vigil Friday night kept hope alive that the 14-year old boy will be found safely.

"I'm just praying that someone gives a call and says, 'We got him,' you know, and this nightmare can be over," said Vanessa Fontaine, Avonte's mother.

A week to the day after Avonte slipped away from his school and vanished, his family joined dozens of people to pray together and re-energize search efforts.

Police are actively searching, deploying harbor units to comb the East River.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly says there are well over 100 members of the department out looking for Avonte.

Since family members say he has a love of trains and escaped to a train at least once before, the NYPD says that searching the transit system is a priority.

"We've inspected every single bathroom, every single mezzanine. We also looked at every vacant station, and we're actually going to do a second check today," said NYPD Chief of Department Philip Banks. "All MTA employees has been notified, and there's announcements that's taken place there. So we've done a very extensive search, and we will continue to do so, hoping that possibly, he's still riding the train."

"We have checked every tunnel, a police officer in the front of the train," Kelly said.

Kelly says the search has now expanded beyond the city.

"We're working today with the MTA, New Jersey Transit and other lines, we, obviously, expanding the search possibly Long Island area or New Jersey as well," he said.

Family members and volunteers gathered at a tent pitched outside the school where Avonte went missing, a makeshift headquarters for anyone who is searching for the boy.

"I just hope that anybody will also keep an eye out to look for my little brother Avonte," said Anthony Fontaine, Avonte's brother. "I really do."

There are still questions about how the special needs child could have simply left his school without being stopped, but Avonte's family says they will worry more about that when they find out where he is.

Anyone with information on the case should contact the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS, or text CRIMES and then enter TIP577, or visit www.nypdcrimestoppers.com.

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