Young worker, Plymouth neighbors rescue missing girl with autism from brook

PLYMOUTH, Mass. — Plymouth police commended a young Hanover man for rescuing a missing five-year-old girl with autism who had wandered from her home and was wading in a brook Wednesday morning.

Jake Manna, 20, was at work installing solar panels at a home in the town’s Buttermilk Bay neighborhood when he learned the neighborhood girl was missing and decided to begin searching.

“First reaction was to go start looking,” Manna said. “Some people went one way, some people went the other way, and I took my own path.”

Neighbor Toni-Elizabeth Anderson checked her home security camera and found the girl had been walking in Anderson’s front yard about 20 minutes before. The little girl can be seen casually walking around before darting in the direction of a winding, wooded trail that leads to the water.

“She skipped up to the front, went up my steps. She was there for about a minute, and then she skipped through the cars that were in my driveway and then booked it,” Anderson said. “I assumed she went to the path, because what kid wouldn’t?”

Worried, Anderson sent Manna, her own uncle and others out searching, directing them to the paths behind her home.

Manna, a former lifeguard, was first to find the girl.

“I had to cross a river to get over to the lake, and I saw a diaper and T-shirt floating down the river,” Manna said. “So, I thought of the worst, and my heart dropped, and I ran straight to the lake.”

Manna said he found the girl in waist-deep water, hoisted her above his shoulders to avoid nearby brush and carried her to land.

“She just started to go deeper and deeper,” Manna said. “But luckily, I said her name in time, and I called her over and we were able to get her out.”

Manna passed the girl to a woman who in turn passed the child to Anderson’s uncle, who then carried her to the street.

Anderson helped put a pink life vest and princess towel around the unclothed girl, comforting her inside a friend’s car. Anderson later brought out her son’s shorts and a Pull-up diaper while they waited for her mother.

Medics were on standby to evaluate the girl, who was not hurt. Her frantic, searching family took her home, thanking her rescuers as they left.

The girl’s mother declined to speak to Boston 25 News on camera, saying only the incident was “the worst moment of [my] life” and she is so thankful for her daughter’s rescuers.

Plymouth police invited Manna to the police department Thursday and presented him with a certificate and a command coin.

Police posted a picture with Manna on social media, writing, “Officer Vinnie Roth, who was responding to the original call, stated: ‘That girl had a guardian angel yesterday… and his name was Jake.’”

Manna was humble about his actions, crediting the many people who helped bring the girl home safe.

“I wouldn’t call myself a hero. It was just the right time, right place. And I think anyone else would’ve done the same,” Manna said. “It’s good the community came together and everyone helped.”

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