Crews search for missing 11-year-old - KMSP-TV

Missing 11-year-old boy's body found in canal

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C.J. Udall C.J. Udall
MESA, Ariz. -

It was supposed to be a fun day of adventures for one little Mesa boy.  Instead, his family is grieving after he fell into a canal and drowned.

The body of 11-year-old C.J. Udall was pulled from the canal behind is home Saturday afternoon near Ray and Power Roads.

C.J. was a Boy Scout who had just earned his first merit badge.  To celebrate, his family was hosting an overnight Scout outing at their home, which is a 5-acre property in Mesa that's bordered by a canal.

C.J. had Down syndrome, so his family put up several fences around the home to keep him safe.

On Saturday morning, he crawled through a hole in the fence without anyone noticing and found his way to the canal.

"He just was off on an adventure.. he knew no danger."

C.J.'s uncle didn't want to be on camera, but he told us his nephew loved to explore.  That's why there were metal fences, chain link fences and electric gates around his family's property.

"You an see right here how they put this here to keep him from coming through.  He found a little opening.. amazing that a property of this size and he finds an opening nobody else could seem to find," he said.

Family members say C.J. followed an irrigation ditch to the canal.  His father found footprints and dog prints in the mud. But by the time he got to the canal, it was too late.  He saw the dog in the water, but no C.J.

Mesa and Gilbert police searched the area by air and foot, hoping the boy was just scared and hiding somewhere.

Around 1:30 p.m., divers pulled C.J.'s body out of the canal.  The water was deep -- about eight feet and the concrete embankment is steep.  It would've been nearly impossible for C.J. to get out on his own.

"It's just a tragedy.. not one of these stories that you hear where there was neglect.. parents have gone to great extent to be able to contain this little guy," said C.J.'s uncle.

C.J. had earned his merit badge for handicap awareness.  His family never imagined he wouldn't get to experience it.

"He was just adventurous. He had a whole world out there to explore. He was a Down's child excited about life and what life had to offer."

Statement from C.J. Udall's family:

"We are heart broken at the loss of our most amazing and talented son, CJ Udall.  His life ended too abruptly but we know that he has returned to his Heavenly Father and is with his grandpa and namesake, Carvel Jackson.

We ask those moved with compassion at our loss to consider making a donation to a fund that has been set up to honor the memory of CJ.  The fund will benefit the organizations that our son loved and that profoundly touched his life.

Donations may be made to the CJ Udall Memorial Fund at any Wells Fargo Bank Branch."

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