A fun family outing turned tragic on March 17 when a young girl slipped on some rocks and fell into the rushing Stanislaus River at Knights Ferry.
The incident, which occurred just before 5 p.m., happened near the historic covered bridge and the five-year-old girl was swept away by the fast-moving current.
She was identified by family members as Matilda Ortiz, 5, who was at the river with her father, Roberto Ortiz, of Patterson. Family members said she stayed with her father on the weekends and lived in the Oakland area during the week with her mother, identified as Marissa Vasquez.
Her father, who is originally from Turlock, went into the river after her along with others on scene. The cold, fast moving water made a rescue impossible. Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District was dispatched to the water rescue, responding to a call of nine people in the river unable to get out. All the subjects went in to assist; one was caught in a tree and was rescued by fire personnel. Others that went in to assist made it to shore by themselves or with help, leaving just the five-year-old girl unaccounted for.
Emergency crews searched for several hours over the week. She was located under the water by volunteer swift water rescue and recovery divers on Wednesday afternoon near the area of the Knights Ferry Campground in the 17000 Block of Frymire Road.
The high-water level will mean dangerous conditions along the river for the foreseeable future. Officials encourage those going into the river do so at their own risk. There are life jacket loaner stations at several spots along the river but with the water temperatures as cold as they are and the river moving as fast as it currently, authorities advise against anyone going into the water.
A GoFundMe account was set up to assist Matlida’s family with funeral expenses.
“I want to thank everyone for
every single word of comfort it has made our pain be easier in a way.
We as a family of Matilda pray that Marissa and Beto get the peace they need through this very unexpected time,” wrote Matlida’s aunt, Melissa Naranjo-Ortiz.
The fundraising account can be found at: www.gofundme.com/matilda-ortiz