By Alex Robinson
Family members were still waiting Friday afternoon to hear if human remains found on the shore in College Point were those of Avonte Oquendo, a 14-year-old autistic boy who vanished from his Long Island School in October.
An unidentified teenager found an arm in the area Thursday night and notified police, who went to the site and also discovered two legs, a Police Department spokesman said.
Attached to the legs, which had deteriorated to the point that the skin color could not be identified, were size 5 1/2 Nike Jordan sneakers. The authorities also found size 16 jeans and some underwear in the area, said David Perecman, the lawyer representing Avonte’s parents.
Perecman said he was notified by police at 2 a.m. Friday morning and he contacted Avonte’s mother, Vanessa Fontaine.
“This morning when I spoke to her, she just said ‘it’s not Avonte until it’s Avonte,’” he told reporters at the College Point site as a helicopter circled the area near Powell’s Cove Boulevard and Endeavor Place.
But the mother confirmed that the sneaker and jeans that were found appeared to match what her son was wearing when he disappeared from the Riverview School in Long Island City Oct. 4.
“She doesn’t seem to me to have ever lost hope,” Perecman said. “What she does is she gets up in the morning, she cries her eyes out, she wipes her tears and then she goes out and does what she has to do.”
Fontaine went to the city medical examiner’s office Friday to provide evidence for the DNA testing, the lawyer said.
Perecman said the identification of the remains from the medical examiner’s office could take several days to as long as a month.
Avonte’s mother launched a major campaign to find her son and thousands of people joined the search for the teen, who was fascinated by trains and afraid of water.
More than 900 tips poured into the police within the first two months after he went missing and volunteers plastered his photo around the city.
“I should say thank you to the thousands of people who helped search. What I saw when he disappeared was staggering but not surprising,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said Friday.“Avonte should never have been allowed to leave that school. It’s a tragedy for his family and everyone else involved. Someone needs to be held accountable.”
Fontaine filed a notice of claim in October that Fontaine planned to sue the city and Department of Education for not preventing Avonte’s disappearance from the school.
“It’s recklessness. It’s far past negligence,” said Perecman of the school’s administrators’ conduct. Perecman claimed the school’s staff waited an entire hour after Avonte disappeared before alerting the authorities.
Police continued to investigate the coast Friday for more evidence. A number of police boats straddled the waterfront as a diver searched under water.
Reporter Bill Parry contributed to this story