5-year-old girl with autism missing after falling into California river

The child’s father jumped in after her but was unable to reach her, deputies say

5-year-old girl with autism missing after falling into California river
Authorities spent more than three hours on Sunday, March 17 searching for the girl until darkness made the search too dangerous, according to the fire department. (Source: Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District/Facebook)

STANISLAUS CO., CA (Gray News) - Emergency crews have not been able to locate a 5-year-old girl with autism, who fell into the Stanislaus River in California more than a day ago.

Firefighters responded to a report of nine people in the river and unable to get out Sunday evening at the Knights Ferry Recreation Area, according to a Facebook post by the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District.

One man was rescued from a tree, while the others got out of the river with help. All were accounted for except a 5-year-old girl, who slipped off the rocks and fell into the water about 5 p.m., reported the sheriff’s department on Twitter.

#LifejacketsSaveLives #WearIt The Modesto Bee At 4:59pm Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District was dispatched...

Posted by Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District on Sunday, March 17, 2019

Family members and bystanders attempted to rescue the girl, identified to KTXL by her aunt as Matilda Athens Ortiz. The 5-year-old who has autism had been at the river with her father, and he was among those to jump in after her.

Unfortunately, no one was able to reach her.

“Her father went and jumped in the water after her, but because of the water current and how cold it is — it’s really high this time of year — he started struggling, and he was not able to reach his daughter,” said Stanislaus County sheriff’s spokesman Royjindar Singh, according to the Los Angeles Times.

One man was briefly able to grab the 5-year-old’s clothing, but Singh says the current “ripped her out of his hands.”

Authorities spent Monday searching for the 5-year-old after a 3-hour search Sunday. The Sunday search ended when high water flow, darkness and difficult terrain made the search too dangerous, officials say.

Recent storms created hazardous conditions along the river, KTXL reports.

Following the incident, the fire department issued a warning to park visitors on Facebook.

“Please stay away from the river, the water is moving very fast, and it is cold. If you need to be near the water, always have a personal flotation device (LIFE Jacket) on,” read the post.

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