The body of a 5-year-old Patterson girl was found Wednesday afternoon, Stanislaus County Sheriff's Office announced.
Matilda Ortiz was swept into the Stanislaus River near Knights Ferry after falling off a rock Monday.
In an interview with KCRA Sacramento earlier this week, Roberto Ortiz, the father of Matilda Ortiz, said he jumped in to save her.
“I couldn’t get her. I tried my hardest, I tried,” he said in the interview.
The search effort was hampered by the swift flow of the Stanislaus River, swollen water levels and by areas clogged with runoff debris, Buck Condit, battalion chief with the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District (SCFPD), said Tuesday morning.
“The river is swollen it takes the water into a lot of brush, trees, snags and strainers. There’s just a lot of obstacles that make it difficult to search,” Condit said.
Condit said one boat was searching the river and one drone was flying above the area on Tuesday morning.
According to the California Nevada River Forecast Center (CNRFC), the water level a few miles downstream of Knights Ferry at the Orange Blossom Bridge near Oakdale was estimated to be at about nine feet on Sunday afternoon. The water level has decreased approximately a foot over during the past week, but it is still at near-record height for recent years.
The peak water level was 10.21 ft. in 2017, 8.05 ft. in 2016 and 4.88 ft. in 2015, according to CNRFC.
According to the California Department of Water Resources, the flow of the water at Orange Blossom Bridge was more than 4,200 cubic feet per second. On month ago, the flow was approximately 1,700 cubic ft. per second.
The girl was reported missing at about 5 p.m. on Sunday when search and rescue officials were dispatched to the historic covered bridge at the popular Knights Ferry Recreation Area for a report of multiple people in the water, said Lt. Anthony Bejaran with the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office.
Bejaran said the girl was with at least five to six family members, including her mother and father, who were recreating on an outcropping of rocks known for photo-taking and hiking.
When the girl fell into the water, the family members jumped into the river to try and save her.
According to a SCFPD press release, three boats, two engines, and a chief officer were dispatched to rescue nine people from the water. One boat saved a man out of tree, while the others were able to get out of the water with assistance or alone. The water temperature was about 50 degrees.
Condit said on Monday there were two boats searching the waters. Drones from the SCFPD, the Sheriff’s Office and the Modesto Fire Department were also searching the area from the sky.
The search has extended west from the covered bridge at Knights Ferry, multiple miles to just east of Oakdale, Condit said.
“The current is so swift it could have carried her down that far,” Condit said. “The drones are really a big tool getting into areas that we can't get the boats into.”
Bejaran added that the Sheriff’s Office was using an aircraft to check the area with a video camera.
The search began in earnest Monday at about 9 a.m., Condit said. Officials searched until about 8 p.m. Sunday.
Bejaran said due to the conditions of the river, the search and rescue dive team was not dispatched into the water.
Condit said the search was discontinued at 6 p.m. on Monday. The search party was reduced Tuesday morning. Watercrafts were focused in the area where Ortiz was last seen, just west of the covered bridge, while aircraft were searching almost as far as Oakdale, Condit said.
Two people died in the summer of 2017 on the Stanislaus River near Knights Ferry.
Rachel Terrazas, 22, of Sonora, died in June 2017 following an inner tube float accident downstream of the historic covered bridge. On June 14, 2017 a man’s body was recovered following a report a man may have drowned while swimming in the river about three weeks before.
The Knights Ferry Recreation Area is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is a popular location for rafting trips.
The Stanislaus River watershed flows out of three forks in the Sierra Nevada mountain range to New Melones Reservoir. It flows westward through Lake Tulloch and through Stanislaus County, where it intersects with the San Joaquin River.