NEEDLES, Calif.–Community residents gathered Saturday night in the parking lot of the Needles Chamber of Commerce to remember Kaden Lanphear, 8, who died earlier that day after being struck by a train in Yucca, Arizona.
“He was such a wonderful little boy,” said one attendee.
A few of Lanphear’s classmates also attended the vigil and later released balloons into the sky. Many brought candles, while some left behind teddy bears and a cross necklace.
One boy wrote a special message on his balloon for Lanphear. When asked what it said, the boy replied, “A message just for Kaden.”
The vigil was organized by long-time Needles residents Jodie Staniforth and Lorie Long.
Authorities say Lanphear, 8, who is also autistic, reportedly jumped on an eastbound BNSF train near his home in the 500 block of California Avenue in Needles sometime around 7 a.m. Saturday. Lanphear got off the train in Yucca and was hit by another train, killing him.
San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office said deputies from the Colorado River Station began a missing person’s investigation surrounding the disappearance of Lanphear, who was last seen by his father in their home on California Avenue around 7 a.m.
Deputies from the Colorado River Station in Needles, along with the Sheriff’s helicopter, the Marine Enforcement unit, and Sheriff’s Search and Rescue volunteers began an extensive search of the city of Needles and surrounding areas.
A reverse 911 notification was made to over a thousand telephones in the Needles area in an attempt to seek the public’s assistance in locating Kaden.
Shortly after 10 a.m., search and rescue teams found a backpack and one lone shoe near the train tracks. The items reportedly belonged to the young boy.
Around 11 a.m. the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to a rural area along the railroad right-of-way near Yucca, Ariz., to investigate a body found near the railroad tracks. Preliminary investigation from both the Mohave County Sheriff’s detectives and San Bernardino County Sheriff’s detectives indicates the strong possibility the body found in Yucca was that of Lanphear and that he died as a result of being struck by a passing train.
Evidence located at Lanphear’s home and at the collision site also indicates the possibility that Lanphear boarded an eastbound train near his home in Needles and traveled to Yucca until he was able to disembark from the train. The Mohave County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the death of the body found in Yucca. A positive identification will be made by the county medical examiner.