Stunning Incident Shocks Ferncliff Manor, Prompts School To Reorganize

YONKERS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A momentary lapse of attention led to a terrifying adventure for an autistic teen, who managed to escape the grounds of a special needs school and was found riding a tricycle in the middle of Saw Mill River Road in Yonkers.

As CBS 2’s Lou Young reported, a quick-thinking Good Samaritan saved the day in the incident this past Friday.

SAIL, the School for Adaptive & Integrative Learning, at Ferncliff Manor in Yonkers, sits high atop a hill.

Down a steep curved driveway is Saw Mill River Road, an industrial stretch with plenty of dump trucks and garbage trucks. It’s not the place for an unsupervised autistic child on an “adaptive bike” – a large red tricycle.

But there the boy was, and he slipped through an open gate.

For the 14-year-old autistic boy with no fear it was quite a tricycle ride; down the long, winding driveway from the school, around a curve and out into the middle of Saw Mill River Road during rush hour.

He ended up pedaling around traffic, right down the double yellow line.

“You couldn’t imagine seeing him riding in the middle of the road,” said Rich Rubin. “I couldn’t figure out what happened when I first rolled up.”

The boy was stopped a full half-mile from the school where he attended, and up the hill from the bus company office where Doreen Rubin works. She ended up saving the child.

“It is totally amazing, and to come down the hill from the school on to Saw Mill River Road; to make the right turn is totally incredible, and they didn’t know he was missing was the most upsetting part,” she told WCBS 880 reporter Sean Adams.

Before they stopped traffic, Rubin said the cars just kept going along like the boy wasn’t even there.

The incident happened so fast on Friday that the school did not know the boy was missing until Rubin had him safe and sound. On Tuesday night, the school was shouldering the blame and taking a hard look at its program.

“I think I am mad at myself. We are. We’re mad at ourselves,” said Ferncliff Manor education director Steve Madey. “These are, these are our children.

“Something like this happening is our worst nightmare, and, fortunately, the worst nightmare didn’t happen, because there were guardian angels watching over us and the child, and (Rubin) was obviously one of them,” added Ferncliff Manor executive Patricia O’Conner Saich.

One employee was fired, and several others were disciplined. The staff is in the process of being retrained and the company is expecting to make itself over.

Yonkers police said the boy was already safe and sound by the time they got to the scene. No charges were anticipated.

You May Also Be Interested In These Stories

Watch & Listen LIVE