A five-year-old boy was safely reunited with his family in Myrtle Beach Thursday night, six hours after he became separated from them on a pier.
The boy's father has been charged with Child Neglect.
Horry County Police say it took a combination of hard work by dispatchers and the use of social media by detectives to produce a happy ending.
Police say a security guard at Springmaid Resort (http://www.springmaidbeach.com/amenities/springmaidpier/) found the boy wandering on the pier Thursday afternoon, looking for his family.
Officers searched the pier and nearby beach for his parents, but couldn't find them, so they took the boy to a nearby precinct, to get him in a cooler place where they could ask him questions.
That's where police say a new investigative tool helped them out: Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/).
Using what little information the boy gave them, detectives found what they thought was his stepmother's Facebook page.
"And then by picture recognition, we were able to determine that yes, it was his family that we found," said Sgt. Robert Kegler of Horry Co. Police.
So then officers had his family's name, but no hotel. That's when E911 dispatchers got involved.
"The child said he was staying in a big building, so they called all the larger hotels in the area, in the Springmaid area," said Horry Co. E911 Director Toni Bessent.
Bessent said dozens of phone calls later, and six hours after the boy was found, dispatchers tracked down his family at Compass Cove Resort, 9 blocks away from Springmaid.
According to police, the boy's father, Steven Steinmann, 47, of Kingsport, TN, had recently remarried and the new family has 11 children. Steinmann told police he had just become aware that his five-year old was missing about ten minutes before police showed up with the boy.
Steinmann is charged with Unlawful Neglect of a Child.
It's the kind of story that gives other parents nightmares.
"We always make sure (our children) are aware that people are not good. So we have to have that communication, as far as, 'You need to stay with us, you do not run off,' " said Lisa Landrum of Jackson, SC.
Bessent said any call involving a child carries a little more urgency, because many of the dispatchers are parents themselves and they know sometimes children can't speak for themselves.