NORTH BEND, Ore. – The Coast Guard and the Lane County Sheriff’s Office located a 4-year-old girl and her grandparents Wednesday after they were reported missing in the Willamette National Forest earlier in the week. The girl and her grandparents ventured into the forest Monday looking for a Christmas tree.
The three were reported missing after the girl’s mother went to pick her up at the grandparents’ home in Eugene and found no sign that the group had returned from the forest.
Investigators did not know what part of the forest they headed to, but cell phone signals indicate they were last in the area of Fall Creek.
A Coast Guard aircrew aboard an MH-65 Dolphin Short-Range Recovery (SRR) helicopter from Air Facility Newport began searching at first light on Wednesday morning.
After several hours of searching and a return to base for refueling, the rescue helicopter crew located the family’s vehicle stopped on a snow-covered road.
The vehicle appeared to have a blue tarp placed across part of it, which made the white-colored car easier to spot from the air.
The aircrew reported one person waving both arms at the helicopter, an international signal for ‘HELP’ and radioed their position to search and rescue teams on the ground, who arrived on scene and found the family unharmed.
“We are thrilled to see this case close with a happy ending,” said Lt. Bert Toone, MH-65 Dolphin co-pilot from Coast Guard Sector North Bend. “This holiday miracle should remind everyone to always let someone know where you’re going when you head out on an adventure and always go prepared for the worst-case scenario.”