It’s a parent’s worse nightmare.
You take your eyes off your child for one minute, you look up and they’re gone. You call your child’s name multiple times and race around the area trying to find them. Most of the time the parent will find their child within minutes and they’re relieved and their heart begins to beat normal once again.
But that is not always the case. A child is not always found within a few minutes.
This happened Sunday night to the parents of Mathew and Bobbi Jo Bourassa of Breezy Point, who have five children ages 3 1/2 weeks, 2, 4, 10 and 13.
Luckily their story has a happy ending.
Their 4-year-old daughter Kaylyn, who they call “Jo Jo,” happened to walk off with their chocolate Labrador, Moose, when Mathew noticed she was missing. Mathew was working in the garden, while Bobby Jo was inside the home feeding their baby, while their 13-year-old was doing homework and their 2-year-old was inside the home. Their 10-year-old was not home at the time.
Bobbi Jo said her husband ran into the house to ask if “Jo Jo” was inside because he didn’t see her outside of their home located on a cul-de-sac on Pine Circle that is surrounded mainly by pastures and woods, with some homes nearby.
“I said no and he ran outside and noticed our dog was gone too,” said Bobbi Jo. “He got on the four-wheeler and began looking for her.”
Mathew first went to the house of a neighbor who lives on the corner because “Jo Jo” always wanted to go to the neighbors because they have a tractor. But she wasn’t there.
“That’s when we called 911,” said Bobby Jo. “I jumped out of the house and drove around to find her. My brother, who was at our house, was looking for her and we all were looking around until the cops got here.
“I ended up coming back to the house so I could let the cops know what she was wearing as I dressed her that day and to answer any other questions they’d have.”
Breezy Point Police Sgt. Brian Sandell said the missing child report came in at 6:57 p.m. Upon arrival, Sandell said officers searched the home to make sure the girl was not in the house, while other officers were searching areas outside the home.
“When we get a missing person report, the first thing we check is the residence,” said Sandell. “People get upset when we do this and think we should be checking elsewhere, but we have to make sure the home is clear because a lot of kids like to play hide and seek.”
Sandell said the police department called multiple agencies for mutual aid including the Crow Wing Sheriff’s Office, Crosslake and Pequot Lakes police departments, Pequot Lakes Fire Department and North Memorial Ambulance to assist in the search. The Minnesota State Patrol helicopter was canceled en route to the scene. Sandell said that Officer Jay Lorch coordinated the search for the child.
Bobbi Jo called her mother-in-law and she and other family members helped in the search and were present for moral support.
“There were volunteers walking everywhere,” said Bobbi Jo. “They all came to help with the search with police and fire.”
Sandell said Pequot Lakes fire used a rescue all-terrain vehicle in the search and officers had their night vision and thermal imager equipment that detects heat in the search. However, Sandell said the equipment wasn’t needed in the search as the child was found by a motorist.
Sandell said the girl was located about a half mile away from her home on Crow Wing County Road 11 and Humming Bear Lane. Sandell said the girl was checked out by paramedics to make sure she was OK and then transported back home. Sandell said the 4-year-old was reunited with her parents at 7:44 p.m. — 47 minutes after the 911 call.
“Luckily that guy (motorist) found her as she was gone for over an hour,” said Bobbi Jo, counting the minutes before authorities were called. “She had crossed (County Road) 11 and to the other side of the woods and the dog was right with her when they found her.
“I don’t think she really knew what happened. She was tired and thirsty and said, ‘Mom my legs really hurt.’ She was going for a walk with the dog looking for frogs and she said ‘Mom I went into the woods and I didn’t know where I was.’
“We told her not to do that and told her how scared we were. But it happened so fast. It can happen to anyone. We had a scare like this last year with her wanting to go for a walk. My husband is very protective and he felt like a horrible parent, but there’s not much you can do. She was gone just for ...
“Thank God that everything is fine. She had some scratches from being in the woods, but other than that she is fine. She keeps telling us that she will never do it again and that she has never seen us cry like this before.”
Bobbi Jo said her advice to other parents is to never hesitate to call 911 for help if their child goes missing.
“You don’t realize how fast they can travel,” said Bobbi Jo. “For a little kid she made it far. She was found a half mile away from our house but we don’t know which way she walked in the woods, she could have walked much more. Parents need to call 911 immediately to get them searching.”
Bobbi Jo said she realizes that some parents feel ashamed if their child would happen to go missing and feel like it’s their fault, but she said “It happens to all of us ... People need to call and ask for help.”
Bobbi Jo said “Jo Jo” is independent and one of her more boisterous children, who likes to do the things that she wants to do.
Bobbi Jo and her husband are always explaining to their children what the boundaries are, but Sunday’s incident was just one more reminder to explain it again.