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Volunteer who found missing girl with Down syndrome in Pittsburgh shares details on the search – WPXI

PITTSBURGH — A West Mifflin teen has been found safe in downtown Pittsburgh after she was reported missing Friday morning, Jan. 5. Kayla Durler, 17, has special needs, and the situation was getting dire as temperatures dropped and the snow started to fall.

Community members stepped up to find Durler Saturday afternoon and reunite her with her parents. She had been missing for more than 30 hours and was hungry but seemingly okay.

“It was probably the most intense change of emotions I’ve ever felt,” said Rebecca Bykoski of Pittsburgh.

Bykoski spotted the teen, who has Down syndrome, around 3:30 Saturday afternoon after an hours-long search in the cold with dozens of other volunteers.

“I started looking through alleys, behind garbage cans,” Bykoski said. “I was getting to the point where I was feeling very defeated and saddened and supper worried because now it’s turning dark; it’s cold.”

Bykoski said she ended up finding Durler in plain sight, standing in front of a retail shop, DK Pittsburgh Sports on Fifth Avenue.

“I ran up to her and I said, ‘Kayla, oh my gosh are you okay?’ I said, ‘We’ve been looking for you. There have been so many people looking for you,’” Bykoski said. “I asked her if she was okay. She said, ‘Yes.’ I asked her if she had been scared and she said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Would you like a hug?’ and we had a hug.”

Bykoski bought Durler some food and said she didn’t seem hurt or traumatized.

Durler was then checked out by medics and Allegheny County Police said she appeared to be okay.

The teen disappeared Friday morning after her bus driver dropped her off at Sto-Rox High School even though the school closed for the day.

Police said she then took a PRT bus downtown.

Jamie Ward, the founder of Jamie’s Dream Team, started a small search party for Durler Friday night. By the next morning, the group of six volunteers had expanded into 100 volunteers handing out flyers across the entire city.

“Those volunteers were unbelievable,” Ward said. “They were coming out by the dozens and just wanting to help.”

Ward said she was thankful to the volunteers and added that many of them came together with a common bond of knowing someone with special needs.

“This girl needed to be found, and somebody had to help,” she said. “Somebody had to do something.”

In a statement, the Sto-Rox School District superintendent said they were trying to find out why ABC Transit, the bus company that dropped the teen off, wouldn’t take her straight home. He said the company was notified the night before that classes at the school were canceled.

Channel 11 reached out to ABC Transit to get its side of the story and is waiting to hear back.

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