Missing nine-year-old girl found

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SALEM – A nine-year-old Winslow girl who was reported missing was found about 1 p.m. today in good condition, the Maine Warden Service announced. The effort to find the girl went overnight in an all-out effort consisting of 350 searchers on foot and on ATVs, several dogs, fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters that combed the woods of northern Franklin County.

Leah Cuetara was reported missing at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, after she wondered off from a family reunion gathering at her grandmother’s property on Fish Hatchery Road, which is off of Route 142. Cuetara apparently went missing as early as 9:30 a.m., but the appropriate agencies were not notified for four hours. The first officer arrived on scene an hour later.

Leah Cuetara was found this afternoon.

“One of the issues with the search,” Maine Warden Service Lt. Patrick Dorian, who is leading the effort, said, was “the gap between when she went missing and when she was reported missing.”

Cuetara was found about 2 miles from where she was last seen by volunteer searchers. Jason and Helen Pinkham who were riding an ATV, brought her out, according to news reports. Pinkham said the girl had slept overnight near a creek and when found was talkative and in good condition.  

Searchers had set up a command center in Mt. Abram High School, which is close to the place where Cuetara disappeared. A circle with a five-mile radius and searchers concentrated their efforts there.

According to Dorian, teams began a grid search Saturday afternoon, continuing through the night. Wardens were assisted by volunteers from every local fire department, Maine State Police personnel and other local and state agencies. A helicopter and three airplanes joined the search today. 

Dorian noted that several factors were in the searchers’ favor as they looked for Cuetara. The days and nights have been warm, but not overly hot. A large number of what Dorian called “tremendous volunteers” turned out for the search.

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