New immigrant goes missing on first day of school, spends night in vacant house
Published Thursday, January 8, 2015 9:11AM EST
A teen who immigrated to Canada from Ethiopia just last month had a terrible first day of school in the Winnipeg area this week, becoming badly lost trying to find her way home and spending the night in a vacant house.
Seventeen-year-old Beth Zeleke Eliso decided to walk home during her lunch hour Monday, but quickly lost her way. Rather than seek help, she wandered the streets for hours, trying to find the way back to school and looking for anything familiar.
"In my mind, I knew my house. Where is my house? And so I think: I can go back,” Eliso explained to CTV Winnipeg in broken English.
By the afternoon, after her family called to report her missing, police began a huge search, issuing a news release seeking the public's help in finding the girl, and canvassing the neighbourhood for clues.
With temperatures in Winnipeg hitting -30 degrees Celsius with the wind chill, Eliso found a vacant, unlocked house and went inside to sleep through the night on the floor.
Police meanwhile found a clue in surveillance footage from a local lock service business just a few blocks from the school. It showed Eliso wandering past the store, bundled up against the cold but appearing confused.
Trevor Dawson, who manages the lock service, says he allowed police to set up a search base in his store because he, too, was worried for the teen.
"My wife was in tears as soon as she heard about it. We personally do not even know the people in any way,” said Dawson. “It was just the idea of it hitting home."
The next day, a man entered the home where Eliso had found shelter and told her to leave, suggesting she call 911 when she told him she was lost. Without a cellphone, Eliso continued to walk around Elmwood, eventually entering a business and telling a woman that she needed help.
"I tell her, 'I lost my home. I lost my house.' And she says, ‘I can help you,’” said Eliso.
That woman phoned Elmwood High School and explained she was with the missing girl. Eliso was finally reunited with her mother, brother, older sister and father Tuesday night.
While Eliso was not injured and says she was not afraid during her ordeal, she admits she was cold and hungry. She is happy to have the ordeal over and will be back in school Thursday.
With a report from CTV Winnipeg's Ben Miljure