Autistic girl, 11, missing

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Search crews worked late into the night Saturday looking for an 11-year-old autistic girl who was reported missing east of Gore Pass.

A Routt County Search and Rescue dog team and other members assisted Grand County in searching for the girl, who was last seen in the Red Dirt Reservoir area, which is off Grand County Road 134 and Forest Service Road 250, search and rescue member Scott Havener said.

The girl was reported missing late Saturday afternoon. Initial reports indicated she was at a family gathering. Search crews did not arrive on scene until about 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

The Yampa Fire Department was the first on the scene and brought an ambulance.

Havener and his search dog arrived on scene at about 10 p.m. They were the only dog team that responded Saturday night.

Havener hoped the dog would be able to pick up the girl's scent and give searchers a clue as to which direction the girl was headed.

Eight or 10 other search and rescue members from Routt County also responded to the search, bringing four ATVs with them. The ATVs are equipped with lights for nighttime searches.

Searches after dark are much more difficult and at times futile. The decision to search for the girl through the night was made because of her age, her autism and the proximity to water in Red Dirt Reservoir, Havener said.

"It escalated everything up pretty high," Havener said.

He also noted that trail dogs work better at night or first thing in the morning when the air is cleaner and the scent is held longer to the ground. Once arriving to the scene, Havener hoped to interview the parents and find an article of the girl's that held her scent.

Havener said he requested a backup search dog for the mission, but noted two other searches for children were going on in Colorado on Saturday night.

The search comes less than two weeks after more than 50 people, two dog teams and a helicopter were called to search for a missing 5-year-old autistic boy in Steamboat Springs' Whistler neighborhood. The boy was found inside a vacant house next door about an hour and a half after he was reported missing.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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