Autistic girl found safe

11-year-old spent night alone in National Forest near Gore Pass


— A lost 11-year-old autistic girl spent a night alone and outdoors just east of Gore Pass before being found on a U.S. Forest Service road Sunday morning.

Search crews from four counties, including Routt County, searched for the girl throughout the night. Roberta Moody, 11 of Denver, was found more than two miles away from where she was last seen, Grand County Sheriff Rod Johnson said.

At about 6 p.m. Saturday, the child was reported lost near Red Dirt Reservoir, which is about eight miles from Colorado Highway 134 and east of Gore Pass.

Moody's parents said the girl last told them she was going to collect firewood. When she did not return after an hour, they called police, Johnson said.

Searchers arrived on scene about 9:30 p.m. Saturday and worked through the night, worried about the girl's age, her autism and the danger of water in the reservoir and rapidly moving creeks.

The searchers also were concerned about the weather. The girl was wearing shorts and a sweatshirt and the temperature was forecasted to drop to less than 40 degrees that night.

At about 11:30 a.m. Monday, campers spotted the girl on Buffalo Park Road, a Forest Service road in Grand County that runs near the campsite where Moody and her family were staying. The girl was in good condition, Johnson said.

Johnson suspected the girl became disoriented at a spot where the road dead-ends near the reservoir. Instead of returning to camp, the girl began walking up a hill.

More than 30 people were involved in the search Saturday night, including two dog teams. One dog team was Routt County Search and Rescue member Scott Havener and his dog, Duke.

Ten members of Routt Coun--ty Search and Rescue were part of a tracking team and searched the area on foot and with all-terrain vehicles.

Russ Sanford, who was Routt County Search and Rescue incident commander for the weekend, was one of the members on the tracking team. He said the team spent much of the night looking for shoe prints the girl left behind before she got lost. Once they identified her print, they looked for other shoeprints in hopes of finding clues as to which direction she went.

Other Routt County members were part of a grid search, searching in close proximity to the family's campsite in case the girl had fallen asleep or was unconscious.

In the morning, 50 to 60 other search and rescue workers from Grand, Routt and Summit counties and Evergreen arrived on scene. Other dog teams also came to help.

Another crew from Routt County Search and Rescue went in the morning to help search.

"Routt County definitely had people there," Sanford said. "They were half of the contingent."

Sanford said that when people become lost, they often travel long distances over night in attempt to find shelter or keep warm.

"I have seen it over and over again. When someone gets lost at night and is not wearing appropriate clothing and don't have survival gear, they are inclined to keep moving," Sanford said.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz


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