Rescuers in Washington State praised the tenacity of a 10-year-old girl who, after being lost while out with her family, managed to survive on her own for more than 24 hours in the difficult terrain of the Cascade Mountains.
The Kittitas County Sheriff's Office stated in a Facebook post that Shunghla Mashwani was attending a gathering with her extended family in the Cle Elum River Valley on Sunday when she lost contact with the group as they crossed a pedestrian bridge over the river to eat lunch close to the Cathedral Pass Trailhead.
Kittitas County is about 85 miles east of Seattle.
The girl and her family moved to the US from Afghanistan two years ago, and they enjoy spending time in the high wilderness because it makes them miss their native country, according to the sheriff's office.
“Shunghla told her family and rescuers she found herself suddenly separated and alone when the family was travelling back toward the footbridge and she couldn’t find the bridge on her own,” the sheriff’s office said.
About 20 people in the group ran back and began looking when they realised Shunghla hadn't crossed the bridge with them, according to the post.
The family was able to call authorities with a stranger's satellite phone, and the authorities searched for the girl for two hours using drones, helicopters, and K9s.
According to CNN, the sheriff said that they had the girl’s father record a message of reassurance in their native language that was broadcast over the search area.
The message told Shunghla that there were people looking for her and trying to help.
“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 said.
She was found by two ground search volunteers around 3pm on Monday, about 1.5 miles south of where she was last seen, according to the sheriff's office. She just sustained minor scrapes.
“I was trying to go to sleep in the night and then wake up early in the morning, and then I’ll find my dad and mom in the forest,” Shunghla told CNN affiliate KING about her night in the wilderness.
“She hiked downstream through the dense forest and spent the cold night between some trees. She said she knew it was the right thing to follow the river. She proved an extraordinarily resourceful and resilient 10-year-old,” the sheriff’s office said.
Shunghla was placed in an inflatable boat by rescuers and transported across the river to her father.
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