QUEENSBURY, NY (WRGB) - A Warren County teen with autism survived the night in the bitter cold temperatures before he was found safe Monday morning by authorities who had been searching for him for hours.
The first thing Sheriff Bud York thought Sunday night when Geoffrey Deierleihn, 16, was reported missing was, "Does he have project lifesaver?"
"You're thinking, 'Oh boy, we're gonna to find him no problem,'" York said.
But the teen on the autism spectrum wasn't part of the program.
"When we first started doing it it was for Alzheimer's and dementia patients, and we've pushed it out to autistic kids or anybody that has a wandering problem."
Without a Project Lifesaver bracelet used to track clients, Deierleihn spent more than 12 hours missing, until he was found walking down West Mountain Rd. Monday morning.
"Somebody called and saw him walking," York said. "The nearest person was our sheriff's department, who found him."
York says the teen walked from gas station to gas station to warm up - miles away from his home in Lake Luzerne.
"Had he gotten off the road and gotten lost, he's not going to make it."
York says searches in the single digit temperatures are hard on everyone - those searching AND the missing.
"You could have died overnight of hypothermia," York said.
He says with Project Lifesaver, the longest it's ever taken to find someone is around a half hour.
"At zero degrees or below, that's important that first 30 minutes."
Warren County has 21 clients it can track with Project Lifesaver - six of those clients children. 12 department officers are trained twice yearly to find clients with the technology, and in the last two years, the department has found six people - SAFE.
"He might have been in a gas station when our cars went by and they didn't know he was in there but this would have picked that up, we probably would have found him a lot sooner."
For more on Project Lifesaver, visit https://projectlifesaver.org/