EVANSDALE, Iowa (AP) — More than 350 volunteers joined authorities Sunday in a search for two young Iowa cousins whose bicycles were found abandoned near a lake.

Family members held out hope even as investigators said they had found no new clues that could lead them to the girls, who were last seen shortly after noon Friday. Authorities located the bikes of 8-year-old Elizabeth Collins and her 10-year-old cousin, Lyric Cook-Morrissey, at Meyers Lake a few hours after they were reported missing.

The Des Moines Register reported that investigators had managed to search about 40 percent of the lake, and were also interviewing family, friends and registered sex offenders who live in the Evansdale area. Black Hawk County Sheriff’s deputy Rick Abben said authorities have found no new clues.

The mothers of both girls said they were trying to stay strong as the search entered its third day.

“Today I’m feeling pretty good,” Misty Cook-Morrissey said as crews assembled to look for her daughter and her niece. “Sometimes, when you think about it, you wonder if they’re dead somewhere, but you try to push those thoughts out of your mind.”

Cook-Morrissey said she was grateful for the community support in Evansdale, a Waterloo suburb that is about 120 miles northeast of Des Moines.

“It’s been good talking to people,” she said. “It keeps your mind off of what’s happening.”

The girls’ bikes were found at Meyers Lake a few hours after the youngsters were reported missing. Elizabeth’s purse and cellphone were found about 20 feet away from the bikes, law enforcement officials said. It could take until Monday to complete the lake search.

Abben said officials are “grasping for straws” to find information on the girls’ whereabouts. Officials said they hoped to cover as much area as possible Sunday, because they expected the number of volunteers to drop as people return to work.

Cook-Morrissey said her daughter might have tried to swim at the lake, despite a swimming ban. She said the family swims at another nearby lake regularly, and described Lyric as a good swimmer.

Elizabeth’s mother, Heather Collins, said it’s rare for her daughter to venture too far from home, but she may have been persuaded by her older cousin.

“We’ve talked about that before,” Collins said “We’ve told them they’re too young to go far.”

Misty Cook-Morrissey and Heather Collins are sisters.

Meyers Lake is about 20 yards from Interstate 380, which means there is easy access to the lake and bike trail, Abben said at a press conference.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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