Search suspended for Ore. girl swept away in river

January 25, 2012 - 1:15 AM
Girl Swept Away

Ilya Snegur, right, answers questions from the media Monday, Jan. 23, 2012 about the search for his missing cousin, six-year Vinesa Snegur, who fell in the Clackamnas River while playing in the snow in Mount Hood National Forest, near Estacada, Ore. on Sunday. The water temperature Monday morning was just above freezing, and the river is carrying a heavy load of trees and roots, imperiling rescue workers, police said. (AP Photo/The Oregonian, Randy L. Rasmussen) MAGS OUT; NO SALES; TV OUT

ESTACADA, Ore. (AP) — The search for a 6-year-old Oregon girl who fell into the frigid, fast-moving Clackamas River was suspended late Tuesday after searchers recovered several items of her clothing and deteriorating weather conditions put search crews at risk.

Tuesday's search yielded three items of little Vinesa Snegur's clothing, including a fleece jacket found underwater, zipped up and turned inside out, Sgt. James Rhodes said. The jacket was found three miles from the spot where the child fell into the river Sunday afternoon while playing in the snow with her parents.

Water rescue experts said the condition of the fleece indicates the child's body is likely pinned underwater on a snag and the force of the water pulled the jacket free, Rhodes said. The hood of the girl's outer jacket was found on the river bottom two miles downstream from where she fell in.

A puffier outer jacket was found on a riverbank eight miles downstream, also zipped up, Rhodes said.

The girl's parents, Marina and Igor Snegur, confirmed the clothing belonged to their daughter. They declined to speak to reporters.

Ground teams and search dogs combed both banks of the river for miles, Rhodes said.

"There is no indication Vinesa made it out of the water," he said in a telephone interview.

A helicopter equipped with thermal imaging equipment completed four passes Monday above more than 30 miles of river and found no trace of her.

Near-freezing conditions, heavy precipitation and high river levels put rescuers at risk and reduced divers' ability to see underwater, Rhodes said. River flows are forecast to increase dramatically over the next two days.

The Portland girl and her parents drove last Sunday to a spot near Austin Hot Springs in the Mount Hood National Forest to play in the snow. The father described the seconds before his daughter's fall as a "moment of inattention," Rhodes said. The man chased after the child in the water and raced along the riverbank, but the swift water carried her away.

The search began Sunday and continued all day Monday and Tuesday.

The sheriff's office plans to resume the search, but it could be several days — or weeks — before the water depth and flow decrease sufficiently and the water's visibility improves, Rhodes said.