What first was reported as a tragedy, a parent’s worst nightmare, ended with a happy outcome Thursday.
A massive search was launched early Thursday for 11-year-old Maria Huber, daughter of Dr. Jackie Miller and Tim Huber, who was discovered missing about 6 a.m. from the family’s home in Ming Estates, east of Washington. (Read the interview with Maria's Mother Here)
About eight hours later a canine search team found the girl in a ravine several hundred feet from the entrance to the subdivision off of Old Highway 100.
The searchers initially reported that they could not detect a pulse and there were no signs of life, the sheriff’s office reported.
Sheriff Gary Toelke said he first notified the parents that their daughter had been found, but she was deceased.
He later returned to the scene and was standing by when he heard Detective Jim Briggs yell out for an ambulance and that the girl was alive.
“At first, I was in disbelief,” Toelke said.
“The next thing I did was go back to the house to tell the family,” Toelke said. “When they heard the news the whole family erupted.”
The girl was treated at the scene by a physician who lives in the subdivision and Washington Ambulance personnel, then taken to Mercy Hospital Washington for evaluation and treatment.
The girl was released later Thursday evening, according to reports.
Toelke said in his years in law enforcement he could not recall a situation when a person was pronounced dead and then found to be alive.
Washington Fire Chief Bill Halmich said after the girl was reported missing about 6:30 a.m. fire and rescue crews began working with the sheriff’s office to plan and organize a search. He said he called for canine units from the Eureka Search and Rescue Team to respond and help in the search.
“We tried to keep everyone out of the wooded areas until the canines arrived, so they could do their work,” Halmich noted. But he noted, then the “Facebook responders” — citizens who learned of the missing girl through media reports and then began circulating information on social media — started showing up.
“We began organizing them to deliver fliers throughout the area and conduct road searches,” Halmich said. “But we needed to keep them out of the woods so they wouldn’t interfere with the tracking dogs.”
Halmich said by the time Maria was found about 150 people, including law enforcement and emergency personnel and citizen volunteers had responded to assist in the search.
Six tracking dogs were employed and two more were on the way when a team found the girl in the ravine located at the southwest corner of Old Highway 100 and Jones Lane, Halmich said.
The girl sustained a bump on the head and was suffering from hypothermia, authorities said, but she was conscious and speaking en route to the hospital.
Toelke said the girl was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and socks, but no shoes. She had a knapsack containing food.
Toelke said the parents told deputies that the child had been upset over a disagreement that she had with her parents early in the week. The girl had gone to bed about 9 p.m. Wednesday and apparently set her alarm clock for 2 a.m. Thursday. The parents discovered her missing about 6 a.m. Thursday.
Authorities searching for a missing 11-year-old girl found her Thursday afternoon in a ravine near Jones Lane and Highway 100.
It initially was reported that the girl was dead, but a short time later authorities detected a pulse and the girl was moving, according to Sheriff Gary Toelke.
Initial reports given by the canine unit members who found her in the ravine was that the child had no pulse and no signs of life, according to the sheriff.
Deputies working the crime scene noticed signs of life. The child is alive and was transported to Mercy Hospital Washington by a Washington Ambulance crew that was on the scene, Toelke said.
Franklin County authorities and volunteers are searching for an 11-year-old girl reported missing from her home in Ming Estates east of Washington early Thursday morning.
The girl, identified as Maria Huber, is a sixth grade student at Our Lady of Lourdes school.
She is 4' 2" tall and weighs about 80 pounds. She is wearing tennis shoes, black sweat pants, a tie-died T-shirt and a dark blue hooded sweatshirt.
A spokesman with the sheriff's office said her parents reported her missing about 6 a.m. Thursday. It is believed that she may have left her home in Ming Estates, off Old Highway 100, about 2 a.m.
The spokesman said the girl's parents found a window open at the front of the house after they noticed she was not in her room. They also told authorities her alarm clock had been set for 2 a.m.
Sheriff Gary Toelke said the parents advised that the child had been upset over a disagreement that she had with her parents early in the week.
Although initial information indicates the child may have run away from home, authorities are concerned about her age and the possibility she may have gone in to the woods alone or who the child may be with, Toelke said.
Washington Fire Chief Bill Halmich established a search and rescue command on the scene this morning. A tracking dog responded from Eureka Fire Department before noon and an additional four dogs were brought in at about 1 p.m.
A search helicopter from St. Louis County also was on the scene, but Halmich said the helicopter was limited to searching open areas because of dense foliage in the wooded areas around the subdivision.
Firefighters and others also were searching from their vehicles Thursday morning while the search and rescue operation was coordinated.
Searches along the Interstate 44 corridor were being coordinated as of 1:15 p.m.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the sheriff's office at 636-583-2567.