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Search continues for 5-year-old girl who fell into Stanislaus River; two people rescued from Pacoima Wash

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The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department said emergency crews searched from air and with fire boats for a missing 5-year-old girl who fell into the Stanislaus River on Sunday.
(Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department)

Searchers combed a river in the Sierra Nevada foothills for a little girl swept away over the weekend, and two people were rescued in Los Angeles early Monday, putting a focus on dangers resulting from California’s exceptionally wet winter.

The girl slipped off the rocks and fell into the Stanislaus River about 5 p.m. near the 330-foot Knights Ferry covered bridge, which overlooks the river. It’s unclear how far she fell.

“Her father went and jumped in the water after her, but because of the water current and how cold it is — it’s really high this time of year — he started struggling, and he was not able to reach his daughter,” said Stanislaus County sheriff’s spokesman Royjindar Singh.

Hikers and other bystanders tried to rescue the girl, with one man briefly able to grab her clothing.

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“The current basically ripped her out of his hands,” Singh said.

The girl’s mother, Marissa Vasquez, said that Matilda Ortiz has autism. On Monday, Vasquez and several friends and relatives walked along the river searching for the girl. Vasquez pleaded with the public for help.

“She is a 5-year-old and she is not aware of dangers. If anyone could just please come help us, it would be much appreciated,” a sobbing Vasquez told the Modesto Bee.

The river’s temperature is in the upper 40s, Singh said.

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The river, which plunges out of the High Sierra through rapids and canyons toward the San Joaquin Valley, was flowing in the area at a rate of more than 4,000 cubic feet per second Monday morning, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

The Knights Ferry Recreation Area is a popular site for families and outdoors enthusiasts. Along with hiking trails, many visitors enjoy going whitewater rafting along the Stanislaus River.

A barrage of storms this winter has dumped huge amounts of rain on California and coated the Sierra and other ranges with snow. Yosemite National Park warned last week that as spring temperatures warm, significant snowmelt will fill rivers and streams.

Some 325 miles to the south in the San Fernando Valley, a man and woman were pulled from the water about 12:30 a.m. after being swept down the Pacoima Wash.

“One patient called 9-1-1 from in the water and spoke with dispatchers while moving downriver,” a Los Angeles Fire Department statement said.

The 21-year-old man and the 18-year-old woman were able to grasp a wall, and a firefighter lowered by harness from an aerial ladder was able to reach them.

Both were taken to a hospital but neither appeared to have serious injuries, the department said. They were not identified.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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