KNIGHTS FERRY, Calif. — The body of 5-year-old Matilda Ortiz, who fell into the Stanislaus River on March 17, has been recovered, the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department confirmed.
According to sheriff’s officials, volunteers found Matilda Ortiz’s body around 4:45 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.
At midnight on Wednesday, officials began the process of reducing the flow of water from New Melones Dam, according to the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Office.
The decision to reduce the river flow comes after two days of searching on the dangerous river, where at one point a fire boat capsized due to the river conditions. No one was injured.
“This window of opportunity with a lower river flow will allow for more resources to help with the search,” said Stanislaus County Sheriff Jeff Dirkse. “We have been working closely with our partners in public safety to put together a plan that will hopefully help us to locate Matilda Ortiz.”
The Sheriff’s Department Dive Team will attempt to check the water as safety allows and deputies will also be on the river with jet skis. Aid will also be coming from the Department's Mobile Field Force and helicopter and drone searches from above.
Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Department will be in boats, and Oak Valley Ambulance crews will be there to assist in the event of an emergency.
While family members have said they will not leave the area until Matilda Ortiz is found, the Sheriff's Department is asking that the public keep its distance.
“We have trained personnel utilizing many different resources to find Matilda,” Dirkse said. “While we appreciate people’s willingness to help, we are also concerned that it could hamper our search efforts [if someone falls in].”
At this time only motorized rescue vessels are allowed on the Stanislaus River east of the Highway 120 bridge in Oakdale.
Anyone with information about Matilda Ortiz is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (209) 521-4636.
REDUCING WATER FLOW
The flow of water from New Melones Dam is expected to be reduced from March 20 to 4 p.m. on March 22 .
This will bring water flow on the river to just below 2000 cubic feet per second (CFS) by March 21, the Sheriff's Department said. It will bring river flow to less than half of what it was when the child swept into the river.
On Friday, the public is asked to be cautious around the river. Officials will begin releasing water from the Dam again after 4 p.m., which means the river will rise significantly until it reaches normal levels.
Multiple agencies responded to a water rescue in Stanislaus County on March 17, where a 5-year-old girl went missing after slipping into a fast moving and dangerous Stanislaus River. Recovery efforts by the sheriff's department continued into Monday.