With an OPP helicopter hovering overhead, emergency crews continued to comb waterways near Mitchell, Ont., on Wednesday as the search for a 10-year-old girl, missing since the weekend, entered its fourth day.
The search for the unnamed girl began on Sunday after provincial police say they received a report that a child had fallen into Whirls Creek near Mitchell around 10:30 a.m. The creek flows westward toward Mitchell, where it joins with the southward Thames River.
First responders, including members of multiple OPP units, have been searching the creek and river for any signs of the girl alongside fire crews from the West Perth, North Perth, Perth East, Perth West and St. Mary’s departments.
Speaking with Global News, Perth OPP Const. Jillian Johnson said provincial police are managing the ongoing recovery efforts, which include members of the OPP’s underwater search and recovery unit, West Region emergency response team, and aviation and canine units.
“The search continues today. Our underwater search and recovery unit is in the water today, again, also being assisted by aviation,” Johnson said, adding that the unit was still in the area where the 10-year-old was last seen near Road 155, south of Line 34, along the creek east of Mitchell.
“There are two areas of roads that are closed for the safety of emergency personnel who are on scene, and that’s Road 155 between Line 34 and 32 and also Road 160 between Line 34 and Frank Street.”
Crews also appear to have been monitoring the Thames River south of the town of roughly 5,000.
In a tweet Tuesday, a joint account belonging to the Perth East and West Perth fire departments said crews were “working the riverbank south of Perth Line 26.” The tweet was accompanied by a video of an OPP helicopter flying low over the water.
Tweets from the same account on Wednesday indicated that “water levels had dropped considerably,” and that fire crews were continuing to search the shore alongside OPP divers and the police helicopter.
Johnson acknowledged that the incident has been emotional and difficult for those living in and near Mitchell, but stresses that the search should be left to first responders.
“There were a lot of people at the beginning who were offering to come out and assist with the search, and at that time, we were asking that we leave the search to the trained professionals because it’s not safe near the water and the riverbanks, and that’s still the case,” she said.
“We do appreciate the thought of the community members who do want to help. At this time, that is not something that is practical for the safety of everybody involved. The outreach has been appreciated.”
Unable to take part in the search itself, some members of the community have taken it upon themselves to support those involved in the efforts in any way possible.
An example came in a tweet Wednesday from Perth East and West Perth fire departments: a 12-cup carton of coffee from Tim Hortons that had been provided by a member of the public.
“We are overwhelmed with the generosity and support of the community. Truly a kind gesture for crews to return to a round of (Tim Hortons coffee). Thank you (West Perth).”
— with files from Kevin Nielsen, Kelly Wang