SIDNEY — Friends, family and community members lit a candle in memory of 6-year-old Rylan Ferguson Monday night during a vigil held at Fairlawn Local School. Nearly 200 people surrounded the school’s flagpole during the vigil.
The body of Rylan Ferguson, 6, was recovered Monday morning along the creek on Knoop-Johnston Road, said Chief Deputy Jim Frye. He had fallen into the creek Sunday afternoon. Rylan is the son of Shauna L. and Jacob A. Ferguson of Sidney.
“The candlelight vigil is for family, friends and community members,” said Fairlawn Local Schools Superintendent Jeff Hobbs. Rylan was a kindergarten student at the school.
After the vigil, Hobbs said Rylan “loved his phys ed. He was a true diehard 6 year old.
“He was full of life and full of fun,” Hobbs said. “There was always a smile on his face. God’s getting a good one.”
Hobbs said Rylan’s death has been diffucult on the entire community.
“It’ll take time but we’ll heal,” said Hobbs. “That’s the beauty of being in a small community. We’re close knit. We have folks who look after each other, folks who know each other. That will help us get through this together.”
The tragedy unfolded late Sunday afternoon, said Frye.
“We received a call at 5:50 p.m. Sunday,” said Frye. “We searched for him until 9:30 to 9:45 p.m. We resumed our search Monday morning at 7 a.m.”
Rylan and a friend, said Frye, were playing with Nerf guns in the grass near the creek. Because of all the rain, the ground was saturated. The bank, said Frye, collapsed under Rylan’s weight, and he fell into the creek.
The boys ran home, and told his parents what had happened.
According to Frye, Rylan’s dad, Jacob, jumped into the creek in an attempt to rescue his son. He was treated for hypothermia by squad members of the Perry Port Salem Rescue Squad.
K-9s, water rescue teams and the Ohio Highway Patrol helicopter assisted with the search for Rylan. The sheriff’s office also used drones.
“At 10:28 a.m. (Monday morning) we received a call from a lady who said she had found him in the creek behind her property,” said Frye. “She was aware that a child was missing and her property abuts the creek. She went out to check the shoreline and that’s where he was recovered.”
The sheriff’s office conducted its investigation at the scene after Rylan’s body was found. The Shelby County Coroner’s office was called and Rylan’s body was taken to the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office for an autopsy to determine the cause of death.
“His family was brought to the scene so they could see their son before he was taken to the coroner’s office,” said Frye. “This is tragic for the entire family.”
Rylan’s grandfathers, Rodney Ferguson and Paul Francis, searched for the boy Sunday and Monday morning. They walked the creek’s banks from Custenborder Field in Sidney to Jackson Road, where the deputies and firefighters watched and waited as the search continued.
“I was on Jackson Road when they came off the creek bed,” Frye said. “The current had been going down — it had dropped a foot. When (his grandfathers) went through the area (where Rylan was found), it was still high. It went down, and when (the lady) went out, she could see him (Rylan).
“Our detectives went there and recovered him from the river,” Frye said.
“The (Sidney) fire department and the sheriff’s office have a game plan,” said Lenhart, Monday morning.
Part of the plan, said Frye, included five groups of four people who searched different parts of the creek. If Rylan hadn’t been found by noon, the group was going to take a break and new searchers would have continued looking for the boy.
The Sheriff’s Office was the lead agency for the search. Assisting were Sidney Fire and Rescue, Port Jefferson Fire, Perry Port Salem Rescue, Ohio Highway Patrol and its helicopter and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
“Last night (Sunday), the helicopter used its FLIR, which is infrared which can recognize body heat,” said Frye. “They were hoping there would still be enough heat that they could find Rylan last night.”
Frye said if the autopsy results come back the way he expects, the case will be closed.
The deputies, said Frye, were offered the opportunity to talk with counselors about Rylan’s death.
“We had a crisis response team go to Fairlawn,” Frye said. “We have two deputies involved with that. Victim’s Services was also called in for the family last night and today (Monday).
“This is a devastating time for everyone involved,” Frye said. “As a parent, I can’t imagine what they’re going through. This was a tragic accident. We’re not going to put the blame on anybody.”
Rylan’s grandfathers described him as a “happy-go-lucky boy” and a “fun-loving playful 6 year old.”
“I don’t think this has hit us yet,” said Paul Francis, before Rylan’s body was found. “We’re still hoping for the best.”
“I was waiting to hear ‘Pawpaw, here I am,’” said Rodney Ferguson. “I hope he crawled off somewhere and someone is going to find him.”
The staff at Fairlawn School was informed of the tragedy after it happened Sunday night, said Hobbs.
“We have been monitoring the situation since last night (Sunday),” said Hobbs. “We have a great relationship with the Sheriff’s Office and the fire department. Our principal went out to be with his family.”
The crisis response team, along with members of the ministerial association were at the school Monday morning, said Hobbs. After they received word that Rylan’s body had been found, the team, ministers and school personnel met with the older students at the school.
“We called Mark Henman in to help us,” said Hobbs. “He’s a retired deputy and he’s good with the counselors and students. He told the younger ones that Rylan had fallen into the creek and he hadn’t been found yet.”
Hobbs said notification was made to all the Fairlawn families.
“We’re going to ask them to sit down with their families and spend some quality time together,” he added.
Hobbs said counselors and ministerial association members will be back at the school Tuesday morning.
“Anyone who wants to go to the funeral will be able to go,” said Hobbs. “We are here for each other. The seven hours our kids spend here, they know someone is looking out for them.
“This is a time of healing for our family. We need to figure things out,” he said. “We will grow stronger as a family because that’s what Fairlawn School is — a family.”
Hobbs said members of the basketball team are making posters which will be hung in the locker room before Tuesday night’s game.
“We want to honor him and his family,” said Hobbs. “We will defend and take care of each other. Even though he had been with us just a short time, in a small school, everybody knows everybody else.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.