A boy from India who went missing in Los Angeles had been wandering in Merced County and foraging for food for 10 to 15 days before being found in Livingston on Wednesday, the Merced County Sheriff's Department said Friday.
Lovedeep Singh, 15, who cannot speak English, "was found in good health considering all he had been through," said Sheriff Mark Pazin during a press conference.
"We have one of those rare good stories, where tragedy was averted, or at least some type of serious injury, I believe deeply in my mind," he said.
Lovedeep, from the Punjab city of Ludhiana, went missing at the end of June while on a trip in Los Angeles.
Pazin said Lovedeep came to California with an educational group to tour the state. He wandered away from his group on June 23 to take photos while touring Los Angeles.
When the boy got lost, he befriended a taxi driver, who gave him money to take a Greyhound bus to San Francisco, where his group was scheduled to make its final stop before heading back to India.
Lovedeep stepped off the bus in Merced, thinking he was in San Francisco, Pazin said. "He had heard a person talk about San Francisco, (and) not having command of the English language, (he ended up) getting off the bus here in Merced thinking he was in San Francisco," he added.
The teenager had been foraging for food for 10 to 15 days, Pazin said.
Lovedeep somehow made his way to one of Livingston's Sikh temples.
People at the temple contacted deputy Tarlochan Sohal, who knows Punjabi, Pazin said. Sohal was able to take Lovedeep in and feed him.
Coincidently, Sohal has family in the same village Lovedeep is from, Pazin said. "He was able to make contact this past Wednesday with family members," he said.
The Sheriff's Tactical and Reconnaissance Team contacted the Los Angeles Police Department, which had entered Lovedeep into a missing persons database.
"We were able to put all the pieces of the puzzle together," Pazin said.
On Wednesday, Merced deputies took Lovedeep to Bakersfield, where they met LAPD officers. The boy should be going back to India.
"It's one of those feel-good, happy-ending stories ..." Pazin said.
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or yamaro@ mercedsun-star.com.