KNIGHTS FERRY (CBS13) — After four days of searching on the Stanislaus River, there is finally some closure for the family of a little girl who was swept away by the current.
The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s office confirmed Wednesday that the body of five-year-old Matilda Ortiz was found just before 5 p.m.
The Sheriff’s office said a group of experienced rafting guides who are certified in whitewater rescues found the little girl near the Knight’s Ferry campground.
Matilda’s family was visibly upset and asked for space after the devastating news.
Hours before Matilda’s body was found, CBS13 talked to her father, Roberto Ortiz.
“I lost my baby and I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if anyone else lost their life,” Ortiz said.
At the time, he commended firefighters and sheriff’s deputies for searching for his little girl for four grueling days in dangerous conditions.
“I want to thank the sheriff’s for them doing the impossible. For them going out there and reaching out to the feds to the state for them to close down the dam and slow down the river cuz the water has gone down significantly,” Ortiz said.
That coordination with the Department of Water Reclamation at New Melones Dam that the sheriff’s department attributes to helping find Matilda’s body.
“At the levels it was and with the speed and power, it makes it difficult to do any in water searching,” said Sergeant Tom Letras.
Letras said Matilda’s body was found around 4:45 p.m. in about two feet of water.
CBS13 talked with some of the river guides as they entered the water with a whitewater boat about the dangerous conditions they are up against on the river.
“There’s a lot of turns, twists and turns in the rivers so we’re out of sight a lot of times. And most of the time, where we’re looking is in the brush, in the shrubs. You can’t see us,” said James Holman with River Journey Rafting.
The sheriff’s office said the divers were also emotional following the discovery of Matilda, but they were pleased to be able to provide the family with some closure.
“Everyone is heartbroken, everyone just grieves for this family and what they’re going through,” Letras said.
Now that Matilda has been found, authorities said releases from New Melones Dam have returned to normal, and the water levels will begin to reset overnight.