Search and Rescue pull out stops to look for lost girl
FAIRVIEW—A West Valley City family is celebrating an extra-happy birthday of their 4-year-old daughter and sister today, after a few tense hours last weekend when the young girl was lost at the top of Fairview Canyon.
Sanpete County Search and Rescue crews and others searched for the girl on Saturday, Aug. 5, after she had somehow become separated from her family, who had made a stop at the Big Drift parking lot near Skyline Drive while on their way home to West Valley City from a camping trip.
She was missing for several hours, during which she traveled about two or more miles “as the crow flies,” said Sanpete County Sheriff’s Sgt. Jayson Albee.
She was found by a traveler on the highway near Huntington Reservoir, who notified rescue officers at a search staging-area further up the road.
“She wandered for about four hours over really, really steep, rugged, rocky, thick pine trees and downfall, quaking aspen, a creek bed and then up to the highway,” Albee said.
“Just for one of us to hike the distance she hiked would take a lot of effort… She covered some crazy distance with little 4-year-old legs.”
The girl wandered away when they stopped at the Big Drift rest area while driving home to West Valley City from a camping trip, said the girl’s mother, Colleen Livingston.
While stopped, some of the family decided to hike a little while others stayed behind. Both groups thought the girl was with the others. Back at the vehicle, young Cassidy was nowhere to be found.
“I had this very urgent feeling that ‘This is real; we need to call someone right away,’” she said.
She called Sanpete County Dispatch.
“The most terrifying thing to me was that I didn’t have that feeling that everything was okay,” she said. Her mind, in the worst of any mother’s fears, went to a photograph she had taken of Cassidy the night previous. “I started thinking that maybe that picture I took of her last night would be the last one.”
Rescue and emergency responders arrived and began looking for Cassidy at about 5 p.m.
“There was a lot of confusion, a lot of anxiety,” Sgt. Albee said.
Along with Sgt. Albee, Sheriff Brian Nielson and Sgt. Jared Buchanan, 15 Search and Rescue team members joined the search, as did two officers from the Utah Division of Natural Resources.
“We follow the same procedures on all of our calls,” Albee said, “but with a kid there’s a lot more emotion involved. It just tends to be that way. We tend to be more emotionally attached to kids.”
An AirCare helicopter assisted in the search, and Rocky Mountain Rescue Dogs were also called in, but the girl was found before the dogs were needed.
About 7 p.m., Cassidy wandered near the highway close to Huntington Reservoir, according to Albee.
“An individual driving on the highway actually saw her,” Albee said. Another vehicle stopped with the first and then continued to the search’s staging area to alert authorities.
“There were some shouts of celebration when they heard over the radio that we found her,” Albee said.
The wife of a Search and Rescue volunteer who went up to the search took the girl, comforted her and gave her a piece of licorice while they waited for her mother to arrive.
An officer with Colleen Livingston told her Cassidy had been found.
“I started to cry again,” Livingston said. “When we drove back there, I saw her, and I thought, ‘She doesn’t even realize that anything has happened.’ She was just engrossed in her licorice.”
The girl asked “Mom, did you know that you left me?” which Livingston said was a bit of a heartbreaking moment, though she tried to explain to her daughter what had happened.
“I want to give a shout out or thank you to the Sanpete County Sheriff’s Office,” Livingston said. “They were so helpful and so kind and caring, they didn’t care about anything else, just her safety and getting her found. They didn’t care that I was a mess. They were very kind in the way they put things, when they could tell I was upset. I actually had a lot of confidence … that they were going to do the very best that they could to find her.”
Other than a few minor scrapes on her legs from branches and twigs, and being a little cold and tired, Cassidy was just fine.