Search continues for missing 9-year-old girl in the Tangipahoa River

A group of emergency responders gathered at the Tangipahoa River near Scenic Sands. (Photo Credit: Russell Drewry)

INDEPENDENCE, La. (WWL-TV) – Authorities resumed the search for a missing 9-year-old girl in the Tangipahoa River after she and a friend were playing in the water Sunday afternoon.

The search is centered in at the Serenity Sands area near Independence, where police said the girls were playing when a strong current swept them away. One of the girls was rescued by someone near the scene, but the search for a second girl, identified as Gabrielle McCoy, was suspended after 10 p.m. due to a strong current and low light.

Prior to that, several local agencies armed with boats, dive teams, sonar and cadaver dogs canvassed the area. The search was being considered a ‘recovery’ mission as of Sunday night.

“It’s probably a recovery at this point,” Tangipahoa Parish President Robby Miller told Eyewitness News. “It’s a terrible situation. The family is in shock. When people realize how fast the water is moving, please stay out of it.”

According to parish officials, the two girls were playing in the water when they began to have trouble. One of the girls was rescued, but the other has not been seen since. Family members said the girl was to be entering the 4th grade in the coming school year.

The search began shortly before 2 p.m. and continued past 10 p.m.

“We would like to thank everyone for the assistance thus far.  We ask that you keep this child, her family and our first responders in your prayers”, Sheriff Daniel Edwards said.

The person who owned the property where the incident occurred told Eyewitness News that the group had been warned that swimming was not allowed.

Tangipahoa Parish Emergency Management Director Dawson Primes warned others not to go swimming in the river at this time.

“This is not a place you should come swimming with the water levels this high,” he said. “If you do go and there are spots where the river is calm, if you are doing that and you have young children, keep an eye on them the whole time… put a life vest on them… We don’t ever want to have to do this again.”

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