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Missing 6-year-old girl still missing, despite search

Posted March 25, 2009
Updated March 26, 2009

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— Dive teams and rescue crews from Harnett and Cumberland counties plan to scale back their search overnight for Ca'zhia McMillian, a missing 6-year-old girl who authorities say fell into the Little River on Tuesday afternoon.

About 100 people were involved in the search Wednesday by air, by land and on the water near where a friend said Ca'zhia fell into the water. Tracking dogs helped search the riverbanks, and crews used sonar on the water.

Crews have four boats in the water and are maintaining a command center overnight. They plan to ramp up search efforts at first light Thursday.

Search for girl in Little River continues Search for girl in Little River continues

The search focused on a 5-mile stretch of the river, and searchers said Wednesday they still considered the effort a rescue operation and not a recovery mission. They said they hold out hope Ca'zhia was safe along the riverbank.

The river was 6 to 8 feet deep, and the water temperature was about 40 degrees, authorities said, making it more difficult for someone in the water to survive than it would be in warmer weather.

"We've had a little bit of change in the river," Flat Branch Fire Chief T.J. McLamb said. "It has dropped since (Tuesday). We're still at 4 or 5 miles per hour as far as the current."

In addition to the current, Harnett County Sheriff Larry Rollins said, debris along the banks of the river also posed a danger to searchers.

"The search area is quite broad. We're looking at all possibilities. We've got boats in a long ways down, as far as we can go downstream," said Maj. Gary McNeill of the Harnett County Sheriff's Office.

Ca'zhia was reported missing at about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday near 229 Woodwind Drive in Spring Lake, off Riverwind Drive. She and a friend were playing on the riverbank when she fell in, according to her aunt, Denise Goins.

Ca'zhia isn't a strong swimmer, Goins said, and all family members could do was hope and pray.

"We've been praying to the Lord. It's terrifying. There's not much talking you can do," Goins said. "It's in the Lord's hands, that's all I can say. Everything is in the Lord's hands."

As the light of day faded Wednesday, family members continued to maintain a constant vigil near the search area.

"We're pretty devastated right now. We just want her to be found,” said Elizabeth McMillian, Ca'zhia's aunt.

“Not knowing is the toughest part right now,” said Ervin McNeill, Ca'zhia's grandfather.

Ca'zhia is a first-grader at Anderson Creek Primary School. Her family said school staff and people throughout the community have been very supportive during this tough time.

Sherry Darrigan lives near the river and runs a nearby convenience store. She said she opened four hours early Wednesday so she could provide fuel and coffee for the rescue workers.

“Everybody tries to pull together during times like this, whether you know the family or not. It’s really a good community and it's kind of like when something happens to their family, it's like it happens to your family,” Darrigan said.

45 Comments

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  • mrsvidivan2 Mar 25, 2009

    Sad to see that this child has not been found yet. My prayers go out to the family.

  • psm5000 Mar 25, 2009

    We live in a very different world. Many of us adults, as kids played & ran around at 6 yrs. old, but those were very different times. It is simply not safe in this day & time to leave a 6 yr. old unattended, period, be it alone in the home OR outdoors, and ESPECIALLY around water. Poor little baby---I pray she is okay.

  • Cloudy Mar 25, 2009

    This is so heartbreaking, poor baby!

  • teacher-mom Mar 25, 2009

    Wishing the best for this little child.

  • Lab mom Mar 25, 2009

    Again, where were the parents???? It is tragic, but she is only six. That is to young to be unsupervised especially near water. My daughter is seven and I do not let her play outside without an adult watching. It will stay that way for a long time.

  • wcumom Mar 25, 2009

    I hope with every ounce I have,that this little girl will be found alive before the rain comes in.

  • DougWare.NET Mar 25, 2009

    My best friend lives within a stone's throw of this incident, and I've seen this section of the river. It's pretty small (width wise) but I can tell you that it's extremely treacherous.

    Years and years ago when I was an EMT, I responded to a river rescue where a young teen was swimming in a local river. Somehow, he was caught in the remains of an underwater tree and ended up drowning. It was almost a day before his body was discovered, even though it was discovered just a few feet from where he was seen to have jumped in.

    I hope and pray this child is found safe. Parents, please remember that it only takes a blink of an eye for something to happen. I'm not blaming anyone, I'm just asking that people be safe!

  • oldrebel Mar 25, 2009

    Many sections of the Little River have extremely steep angled banks that are impossible to regain one's balance or purchase once you start slipping toward the water. At places the actual top is eaten away underneath for up to a foot or more so what looks like a firm footing is actually a false indicator and has nothing substantial beneath to hold anything of weight. What's more at many places there is a network or roots and branches jutting out from their submerged positions in the river into which it is extremely difficult to extricate oneself if you get swept into the web like mass. Not to be pessimistioc, but if the little girl did indeed fall into the river, I'll bet she will be recovered within 100 yards or less of the intitial fall in point.

  • Tired of thoughtlessness Mar 25, 2009

    Hopefully with this tragic accident, they will be putting up some type of fence along the edge?

  • Godschild43 Mar 25, 2009

    Still praying for this child safety.

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