It is being reported that the human remains which were found from the East River in Queens, New York do belong to Avonte Oquendo, age 14, an autistic teenager who went missing back in October. The declaration had been expected for several days, but it has still shattered the teen’s family. Avonte’s mother, Vanessa Fontaine, was grief-stricken, said the family’s lawyer, David Perecman.
Avonte vanished when his school teachers should have been watching him closer. The autistic teen was able to run away from his school on Oct. 4. Avonte had a reputation for wandering away during switches in class times and his personal education plan had taken note of the tendency. There is quite a bit that is unknown about what happened to the teenager after he went missing and how he eventually died. There were no apparent signs of foul play, said Perecman. He added that Oquendo, who was unable to speak because of being autistic, was scared to be around water, and that his parents have no idea how their son could have ended up in the river. It has also been noted that the teen’s remains were found with a pair of underwear that was in a size that too large for Avonte, which had led Perecman to wonder if it is possible that someone could have been with the teenager for some days.
However, for the time being, a cause of death has not yet been determined. There are some clues about how about how Oquendo was able to run away from his high school back in the fall, and they do not speak very well of Riverview School, which is located in Queens.
The details are listed in a timeline of the teenager’s disappearance which was created by the school’s principal and was acquired by Oquendo’s family. They were able to get it due to New York’s Freedom of Information Act. The timeline displays the actions of the day. One of the classroom aides happened to notice that Avonte was not in attendance at around 12:45 p.m. However, it was not until after 2:30 p.m. that the school principal was able to obtain a password in order to have permission to be able to view surveillance videotape so that it might have been possible to find out where the teenager may have disappeared to.
The family’s attorney stated that the high school also decided to wait for over 45 minutes before they made an emergency call to the police. It is extremely clear from the principal’s timeline that the school also waited for almost a full hour to phone Oquendo’s mother. So based on the school’s timeline, there is a strong argument to be made that the school failed to respond quickly enough to the vanishing of a special needs autistic student. Perecman added that there were so many things that went wrong that day, it just bewilders a person.
The loss of a child with special needs in New York City is unparalleled, stated Perecman. But so was the city’s frantic search for the teenager. New York residents covered the subways with pictures of Avonte and made numerous announcements on the trains asking passengers to help in the look for him. But it was in vain. Nothing could be done to fix the early errors which had led to this tragedy.
The family lawyer exclaimed that Oquendo’s parents are going to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of New York, alleging that school administrators did not do their jobs and failed to observe the teenager or call the police as fast as they should have.
New York law department stated that the teen’s death was a terrible tragedy and explained its attorneys would evaluate the lawsuit once it had been filed. With the remains being belonging to Avonte Oquendo, the lawsuit will probably be filed very soon.
By Kimberly Ruble