Saturday, June 26, 2010

Girl, 2, still missing

By Gina Vasselli, The Item

The search for a missing 2-year-old girl was suspended Friday evening after authorities had spent about five hours looking for her in and around the Wateree River.
The search for Natalie Faith Hasty of Lugoff is expected to resume today in and along the river, near the the U.S. 76/378 bridge, on the border of Sumter and Richland counties. Lightning approaching the area about 8:30 p.m. Friday made it unsafe for rescue divers to stay in the water.
Maj. Larry Florence of the Sumter County Sheriff's Office said the search had shifted to primarily the river because "everything leads us to believe she was in the water." They couldn't find a sign to indicate whether she still might have been in the water or on land when the search was suspended.
"Please help me, please," said Natalie's mother, Rachelle Northcutt, between tears. "I love my baby. I want her back. I want her back so bad."
Northcutt said she was at a friend's house when she got a call that her daughter was missing.
"Nobody deserves this to happen to them. I never expected to get a call like that," she said.
She said Natalie was at the river with her grandmother and some other family and friends.
"They turned around and she was gone," she said.
Gerald Cooper, whose fiancee is part of the girl's family and was at the river on Friday, said Natalie was playing on the Sumter County riverbank when the adults were distracted by two pit bulls that started fighting.
During that incident, a silver pickup truck pulled to the scene, Cooper said.
When the adults looked for Natalie a short time later, she was gone, leading some family members to believe she had been abducted.
Northcutt said she was told by investigators that eyewitnesses said the truck simply pulled in and turned around, which is why no Amber Alert was issued.
"But where could she be?" she asked. "I don't really know. I just know I miss her and I want her back."
Derek Hasty, Natalie's father, said it feels like "you've lost your whole world."
As night fell Friday, the intense search - literally by land, sea and air - focused on the Sumter County side of the river. The effort included people and dogs on land, divers and boats in the river, and airplanes and helicopters overhead.
Natalie went missing shortly before 3:30 p.m., when law enforcement and rescue crews from both counties responded to the report of a "possible drowning," Florence said.
Mike Edmonds Jr., a division chief with the Columbia Fire Department, which serves all of Richland County, said fire crews were already at the river doing training exercises, including water rescue, when the child went missing. He added that some of the firefighters were "kicking themselves," thinking if they had only looked or been somewhere just a little different, they might have seen Natalie and been able to rescue her then.
The river is about 6 to 8 feet deep near the U.S. 76/378 bridge but has a quick current, according to Florence. Natalie is about 2 feet tall and 30 pounds.
Natalie, who is white, was last seen wearing lavender bloomers, or short shorts. When she went missing, the family was about to leave the river, so she was not wearing a life jacket, Cooper said.

Update June 27, 2010 10:04am - The following article is by Joe Perry, The Item:

Child's body found

The body of 2-year-old Natalie Faith Hasty was recovered about 11:20 a.m. Saturday, downstream from where she had gone missing, said Maj. Larry Florence of the Sumter County Sheriff's Office.
The little girl from Lugoff went missing shortly before 3:30 p.m. Friday. She was last seen playing with her grandmother and several cousins on the Sumter County side of the Wateree River near the U.S. 76/378 bridge, on the border of Sumter and Richland counties.
Sumter County Sheriff Anthony Dennis said during a brief news conference on Saturday that the family had been picnicking on the riverbank and was about to leave when five family members were distracted by a fight that had broken out between two pit bulls.
A brief moment later, Dennis said, family members turned back around, and Natalie had disappeared.
Sumter County Coroner Harvin Bullock said it appeared that the little girl had stepped into a hole near a piling and then got swept away in a current that Dennis said was strong on Friday. The current had slowed by Saturday, the sheriff added.
Bullock said divers from the state Department of Natural Resources found Natalie's body in the river about 11:20 a.m. She had gotten snagged on a tree branch close to shore and was in shallow water, the coroner said.
Bullock said early indications are that she drowned, but she will be sent to Newberry Pathology Associates for an autopsy.
To explain how quickly the girl vanished from sight, Bullock said a team of divers from Richland County had been performing an exercise on the opposite shore and responded instantly, but it was already too late.
Dennis said the depth of the water where Hasty was recovered "wasn't really that deep," but does have some deep spots nearby and was about a quarter of a mile from where she was last seen.
Maj. Larry Florence said seven different agencies responded on Friday, with 130 to 140 people involved in the search. Rescue personnel were back on scene Saturday morning, with divers in the water about 7:30 a.m., he said.
No charges have been filed yet, he said, but noted that State Law Enforcement Division investigators will confer with the sheriff and Sumter County investigators early next week "and see if anything needs to be presented."
"We'll be jointly deciding," after conferring with SLED, he said. "All of us were actually interviewing people yesterday."
The investigation remains ongoing, he added.

Update July 18, 2010 1:06pm - The following article s by Joe Perry, The Item:
Sheriff's office completes drowning investigation

Sumter County Sheriff Anthony Dennis said Friday his office has completed its investigation into the drowning death of a 2-year-old girl on June 25 in the Wateree River at the county line.
The State Law Enforcement Division assisted in the investigation, he said, and also completed its findings. Both SLED and the sheriff's office investigations will be forwarded to the 3rd Circuit Solicitor's Office, he said.
"They'll have it Monday morning," he added, noting that if charges are filed in the case, Solicitor Kelly Jackson will make that determination.
Natalie Faith Hasty, 2, of Lugoff, went missing about 3:30 p.m. on June 25, and and was last seen playing with her grandmother and several cousins on the Sumter County side of the river near the U.S. 76/378 bridge across from Richland County.
Dennis said at the time that the family had been picnicking on the riverbank and was about to leave when a fight broke out between two pit bulls and caused a distraction.
A moment later, family members turned back to the water and realized Hasty was gone.
Her body was recovered about 11:20 a.m. on June 26, downstream from where she was last seen.
Sumter County Coroner Harvin Bullock said it appeared that Hasty apparently stepped into a hole and was swept away in the current.
Department of Natural Resources divers recovered the girl's body close to shore, which was snagged on a tree.

1 comment:

  1. i miss nataley faith hasty


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