Rescue mission

Rescue mission underway in local town after girl fell through ice

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A major rescue mission is underway northwest of Stratford after a girl fell through the ice on Sunday morning.

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An unidentified 10-year-old girl fell through the ice on Whirl Creek in Mitchell around 10.30am, Perth East-West Perth Fire Chief Bill Hunter said on Sunday afternoon.

Search and rescue teams from West Perth, St. Marys and Stratford are on the scene, Hunter said. An Ontario Provincial Police helicopter, drones and a canine unit are also assisting in the search, he said.

Perth East and Sebringville fire crews are searching for the missing girl on the riverbank, Hunter said.

Hunter asks all members of the public to avoid the area.

“We heard comments on Facebook from people hosting a citizen research party. We don’t want anyone here by the river,” he said.

“It’s dangerous enough with our trained personnel. While we appreciate the concern, we don’t want private citizens going down the river.

The OPP said in a statement Sunday afternoon that the crews were working in “hazardous conditions” and said citizen search groups could “hinder rescue efforts.”

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Sebringville firefighters who were part of the search effort were monitoring the creek from a bridge on Route 160 near Frank Street.

Three area residents who asked not to be identified were also there, overlooking the fast-moving creek on Sunday afternoon.

“I heard on social media that someone had crossed the ice, so I thought I might be eyes on a bridge, just to see if I could help,” one man said.

News of the emergency spread quickly through the city that morning, the group said. They arrived at the bridge around 2:30 p.m.

“We have our own children,” said one woman. “If it was my child in the water, I would want every pair of eyes (to be watching).”

Whirl Creek is part of the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority. In its latest bulletin, the agency urged the public to stay away from all frozen bodies of water during the winter snowmelt.

“Any ice cover will be weakened and unstable,” the UTRCA warned in its March 4 update. “Banks adjacent to rivers and streams are very slippery and, when combined with cold, fast-moving water, present a serious hazard.”

Emergency crews plan to continue the search through Sunday evening, Hunter said.

“We will stay here as long as we can, as long as we can work safely along the water,” he said.

“It is terribly tragic. It’s one of those things where everyone is keeping their fingers crossed that we find it okay.

– with files from Andy Bader, Mitchell Advocate