For 11-year-old Bruneau Fulton, it was just a bike ride.
For the people who didn’t know where he was for several hours on Wednesday afternoon, it was much more scary than that.
Bruneau was riding his bike on the seawall near the Second Beach pool around noon when he became separated from his family. The Vancouver Police Department issued a “missing boy” bulletin just before 3:30 p.m.
About three hours later, a New Westminster police sergeant was driving home from work when he noticed the red-headed boy riding his bike in the 1200 block of Stewardson Way. Recognizing him from the police bulletin, the officer stopped and flagged the young cyclist down.
“According to [Bruneau], it’s not too unusual to ride around for a long time,” says Staff Sgt. Andrew Perry, media spokesperson for the New Westminster Police Department. Judging by the conversation, the boy grew up in a less urban area and didn’t think his wayward journey was untoward. “He seemed fine and wasn’t in any distress….
“He didn’t seem too concerned other than he wasn’t able to find a pay phone” [to call his family].
As the crow flies, it’s roughly 23 kilometres from Second Beach to Stewardson Way. If Bruneau had stuck to the seawall out to UBC and then continued along the bike path to Marine Drive, it’s about 41 kilometres.
One of the Courier’s Facebook followers witnessed the family reunification. “I was in the west end this evening and everyone was talking about a missing boy,” Johanna Mills wrote. “Police were everywhere. Then around 7pm we look across the street from my dad's building where we are standing, and there he is, a tall slim young boy in a purple shirt, looking nonplussed, surrounded by happy looking police.
“We watch as he's walked halfway up the block and they all turn a corner and I hear a child shriek, and a younger kid, who must be his brother, walks towards him with open arms. Then before you know it he is engulfed in the arms of his entire family and they just stand there silently hugging him and each other.”
The VPD is not releasing any more details about Bruneau, including whether he’s from Vancouver or just visiting.
Perry notes that in an age where public pay phones are few and far between, children can be reminded that it’s safe to go into a store or gas station and ask to use a phone.