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Autistic Boy Wandered Onto Ship

July 24, 2000

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ An autistic 9-year-old boy wandered onto a cruise ship and spent a weekend on a voyage that ended in Tampa, Fla., 475 miles from his home.

Akeen Davis was back home Monday, thanks to television editors who identified him so that Florida officials could reunite him with his mother.

New Orleans police apparently misplaced the missing persons report which Latotcha Davis had filed Friday afternoon, describing the boy as autistic. They told cruise line officials Friday night and Tampa police on Sunday that they had no report of a missing child.

Lt. Marlon Defillo, a New Orleans police spokesman, said he did not know how that happened.

TV stations in New Orleans knew about the missing child because Davis went to them for help. News crews identified the child for Tampa police.

Akeen apparently climbed out a window of his house Friday and wandered about three miles to the dock where the Carnival Cruise ship Sensation was boarding, New Orleans police said.

He got past customs officials and ship employees by walking aboard with a group of children and an adult.

``The adult showed her ID and basically said, `These are mine.′ The kids, of course, once they were back aboard the vessel, took off running down the halls,″ said Tim Gallagher, a spokesman for Carnival.

The boy did not talk and had no identification.

When the crew learned, about midnight, that he was not part of the woman’s group, Carnival’s port agent called New Orleans police but was told they had no report of a child missing in the city, Gallagher said.

The boy was not confirmed as a stowaway until the ship was in international waters Saturday, on the way to Tampa. When the ship arrived Sunday in Tampa, police took him into custody.

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