Shunghla Mashwani was separated from her family in the Cle Elum River Valley, east of Seattle, while she was playing in the woods near Cle Elum River on Sunday afternoon, the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release.
Shunghla’s family reported the girl missing from Cathedral Pass Trailhead on Fish Lake Road at about 2 p.m. local time. The nearly 20 adults in the large group of extended family members realized Shunghla was missing when they congregated for lunch and the 10-year-old was not present.
The family initiated a frantic search for Shunghla. Since there is no cellphone service in the valley, the family searched alone for two hours until a passerby on a utility vehicle invited the family to use a Starlink phone, powered by satellite, at their cabin nearby.
After the family called 911, police launched an immediate hunt for Shunghla alongside search and rescue volunteers, police dogs and unmanned drones. Volunteers from several nearby counties also joined in the effort.
“The search area was steep, rugged and remote, with dense trees and undergrowth cut through by the fast-running Cle Elum River,” the sheriff’s office wrote.
Many rescuers apparently worried Shunghla “might have been taken by the swift current” in the river.
More than 24 hours later, Shunghla was found alive on Monday around 3 p.m. nearly 2.5 kilometres from where she was last seen. The girl had only “minor scrapes.”
Shunghla told her family and police she’d become lost while searching for a footbridge near where her family was going to have lunch. The 10-year-old allegedly hiked downstream through dense forest and spent the night fighting off cold temperatures huddled between a grouping of trees. She told police she knew if she followed the river, it would eventually lead her to people.
“She proved an extraordinarily resourceful and resilient 10-year-old,” the sheriff’s office wrote.
The two volunteers who found Shunghla helped her into an inflatable rescue watercraft so she could be brought back to the east side of the river where her family was waiting.
According to police, the Mashwani family immigrated to the U.S. only two years ago from Afghanistan. They told search and rescue crews they like to hike in the Cascade Mountain Range because it “reminds them of home.”
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