FISH CAMP – Passengers on the Logger at the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad were enjoying a brief stop at the half-way point of their trip into the Sierra National Forest near Fish Camp on Saturday, when they were stunned by the sight of an 8-year-old girl wandering out of the woods alone.
It was about 1 p.m. and the train had taken on water and was getting ready to leave for the trip back up to the station, but their departure was delayed by the appearance of this lost little girl.
One witness reported that the girl said “please help me,” and another recalled her saying that the devil had killed her grandmother. The girl was reportedly covered with scrapes and bruises, was quite grubby and appeared very traumatized.
Apparently, the girl heard the train whistle and was thirsty, so she came down to where she heard the sounds, according to witnesses.
Staff from the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad drove down from the station and took the young girl to nearby Camp Sugar Pine, thinking perhaps she had wandered away from there. But when it was determined that was not the case, and no one knew where she came from, they decided it was time to call the Sheriff’s Office.
With this little girl out in the forest alone, saying she had spent the night there, the concern was that others may be missing. Reports were that the girl and her grandmother, along with four horses, had left on Thursday for what was supposed to be a camping trip in the forest, but they never returned. Now deputies were faced with the real possibility that they had someone missing in the forest, perhaps injured or worse.
The Sheriff’s Office called out Search & Rescue and CHP helicopter H-40, which arrived at Sugar Pine at about 4:10 p.m. to begin searching the route related to them by the missing woman’s husband.
The child and her 56-year-old grandmother, who are from Oakhurst, were last seen on horseback on Thursday at 9:30 p.m. headed up Allen Road across from Cedar Valley. They were to head for Miami Creek Road and over to Westfall, cross Highway 41 to the road that parallels the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad, and go on to Big Sandy.
The woman and child had not been seen or heard from since. The horses were reported as two paints and two Arabians, all with red and orange saddlebags.
At 4:40 p.m., H-40 located two paint horses with red packs near a dirt road, and moments later spotted someone on the ground.
The location was about three-tenths of a mile up into the woods from Forest Road 5S17 just north and east of Camp Sugar Pine. H-40 also relayed the information that one horse was staying right next to the woman, while the other three were in a clearing nearby.
At about 5 p.m. rescuers on ATVs reached the location where the woman was spotted and began evaluating her condition. A few minutes later, the team reported that she was responsive, and they began planning the best way to evacuate her for medical treatment. Rescuers also wanted to make sure there were no other persons missing who may have been on the outing, but the woman’s husband confirmed that it was just the two of them.
The cable on H-40 was not long enough to execute a hoist, so rescuers placed the woman on a litter and carried her out of the forest. They also arranged for trailers to transport the horses.