Missing girl, 4, found safe | TheUnion.com

Missing girl, 4, found safe

Laura Brown and Jeff Pelline
Staff Writers

Sheriff’s deputies found a 4-year-old girl and her dog in the Chalk Bluff area southeast of Nevada City this weekend, ending a daylong rescue effort with dozens of people, dogs and two helicopters.

Ahna Lewis and her pet Chihuahua dog, Tinkerbell, were found on the roadside under a full moon about 9:20 p.m on Saturday, about 2 miles from where she had disappeared some 12 hours earlier. She had wandered back to Chalk Bluff Road when she was found, according to rescuers.

The blonde-haired girl was wearing a green tank top, light blue pants and white shoes, not ideal clothing for combating the night-time temperatures in the Sierra.

“It was a big effort,” said Scot Woodland of the county’s Search and Rescue team, who joined the effort. “It was steep, rugged terrain, with lots of slash, deep canyons and tall trees.”

The rescuers set up a command post out of the family’s house and were tracking the girl’s footprints with the dogs. She was located by one of the dog handlers from the El Dorado County search team.

The girl’s parents gave their daughter a big tearful hug when they was reunited with her outside the house. The girl still was holding Tinkerbell on her leash when the family was reunited in a group hug.

“You’d be surprised how fast a 4-year-old can disappear in the woods,” said Capt. Ron Smith of the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office during the search. “It’s easy to get lost out there. All the roads look alike.”

The girl was missing in a heavily wooded part of the Tahoe National Forest that is crisscrossed by old timber and mining roads, Smith said.

The rescue effort had grown to more than 33 deputies and rescue volunteers, said county Undersheriff Richard Kimball on Saturday night. An additional 43 people were En route from neighboring counties, said Kimball, who was on the scene.

A helicopter search that began Saturday afternoon had been called off because of darkness.

The deputies and search-and-rescue dog teams were prepared to search all night.

The remote region was near Chalk Bluff and Red Hill Spring roads, in a remote region accessible by Red Dog and You Bet roads.

Officers received the call of the missing girl at 1:56 p.m. Saturday, and they put together “a hasty search team” of about six people while more searchers could be assembled, Smith said. The rescue group quickly expanded.

Lewis had been missing since about 9:30 a.m., according to Kimball.

The Sheriff’s Office could not explain why it took so long to report the girl missing. The parents could not be reached for comment.

The helicopters from the California Highway Patrol (an H24) and Placer County Sheriff’s Department (a Falcon 30) had joined the effort about 5:30 p.m.

Residents were relieved to hear the girl had been found safely. “Wonderful news. Great job. Her parents must be on cloud nine. Enjoy the rest of your weekend with your baby girl,” said a reader on The Union, which provided updates of the rescue efforts on its Web site.

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