MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Police in Rice Lake, Wisconsin say a 2-year-old girl is dead after she was found in a river after going missing Sunday evening.

According to Rice Lake police, officers were dispatched at around 9:30 p.m. to a Rice Lake residence on the report of a missing child. The caller said the front door was open and the child could have been missing for up to 30 minutes.

“The call came in that the girl was barefoot and outside, wearing a tan shirt and blonde hair. Obviously at that time of night there’s no 2-year-old walking around barefoot,” Rice Lake Police Capt. Tracy Hom said.

Hom said a massive search ensued, using police canine units, a drone, fire and EMS crews and more than 100 community volunteers. Joe Weidinger was among them.

“My heart goes out to the family. I can’t imagine what they’re going through. It’s hard for me but I can’t imagine. I have kids and grandkids. it’s really sad,” he said.

At around 10:55 p.m., an officer using a thermal imaging tool located the child in the Red Cedar River. Tracks were discovered in a snow-blown path, leading into the water, just two blocks from the child’s home.

Using a drone and a handheld thermal imaging device, the child’s body was found in the icy, shallow waters of the Red Cedar River. The child, who was unresponsive, was quickly taken to a nearby ambulance and an area hospital where lifesaving attempts were not successful.

“All of us at Rice Lake Police Department would like to offer our condolences and kind thoughts to the family and friends of the beautiful little girl from last nights incident. We know she will be dearly missed by all who knew her and our community is a little less today without her,” the Rice Lake Police Department said in a Facebook post.

It remains unclear how exactly the toddler was able to open the door and slip away one reason this investigation will continue.

Bill Hudson

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