News Local

Girl overcome by waves at Johnson's Beach: witnesses 0

Cheryl Browne

By Cheryl Browne, Barrie Examiner

BARRIE - 

Police marine units searched into the evening at Johnson’s Beach after witnesses reported seeing a young girl being overcome by waves late Wednesday afternoon.

As of 9 p.m., no one had been located or confirmed missing.

The search was suspended Wednesday night and will be "revisited" in the morning, said Barrie police Sgt. Dennis Vaillancourt.

Eyes of dozens of nervous onlookers scanned the shore looking for any sight of a tiny girl in the water from the path above the busy beach in Barrie’s northeast end.

Barrie police Const. Angie Butler said they were contacted around 3:50 p.m. by one of the lifeguards at Johnson’s Beach while three other lifeguards went immediately into the water to begin searching for the child.

Three more lifeguards from Centennial Beach were called to assist the original crew look for the girl.

“The young witnesses said they thought she was in distress and then saw a flash of colour under the water and immediately left the water to tell the lifeguards,” Butler said.

Two Barrie police marine boats immediately began searching the area, and they called for assistance from York Regional Police for both divers and superior equipment to come to the scene.

York Region’s marine unit arrived shortly after 6 p.m. and began trolling 100 feet off the beach with a specialized sonar camera looking for signs of the missing girl who was described as white, with straight, shoulder-length brown hair.

The little girl was reported to be wearing a pink, green and purple bathing suit.

The water where police were searching Wednesday night was approximately 35 feet deep or more.

On the shore, a yellow pail and pink shovel lay abandoned near the water’s edge, as did blue and green tubes beside a half-dozen sand castles that were left to melt in the rain.

On a positive note, Butler noted there were no personal belongings, such as a towel, shoes, clothes or bike, that weren’t accounted when the other bathers left the beach.

A woman from the neighbourhood stood watch as the wind picked up and a storm blew in from the Centennial Beach area.

“When you hear fire and ambulance and you live near a beach, you know it’s not good,” said the woman, who asked her name not be published.

According to three young girls who were swimming together, the young girl — whom they estimated to be about nine years old — was swimming inside the buoy lines of the shallow area when they said they saw her go under but not come back up.

There was a large police presence at the beach and paramedics are on scene on standby.

By 8 p.m., police had still not received any reports of a child missing at the beach.

“We’re taking extreme measures and hoping for the best,” said Butler.

Police were called away from the scene around 8 p.m. to deal with another marine emergency on the water, but returned to the area approximately a half-hour later before the search was called off for the night.

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