A civilian vehicle collided with a Mesquite Police Department vehicle Tuesday afternoon near the Bunkerville bridge during the drowning incident. Photo by Barbara Ellestad.
Update as of May 17: The Clark County Coroner identified the drown three-year old girl as Sherlyn Martinez-Alverez of Mesquite, NV.
A family outing along the Virgin River turned into tragedy on Tuesday afternoon, May 15, when a three year old girl drowned. A mother, step-father, three children, ages 5, 4, and 3, and a grandmother, all from Mesquite, were playing along the river on a sunny afternoon.
According to eyewitnesses and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD), the young children attempted to entered the river on the south side near an irrigation canal diversion dam. When they began having difficulties navigating the swift canal water, a family member was able to pull two of the three children to safety but the three year old girl was swept down the canal.
A 911 call to Mesquite Dispatch was received at approximately 12:45 pm about the incident. According to Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Sergeant Bret Empey, resource units from the Mesquite Police Department and the Mesquite Fire and Rescue Department responded immediately in an attempt to locate the girl.
Units from LVMPD, along with Bunkerville units, responded to the scene. Local area volunteers and people associated with the Bunkerville Irrigation Company also responded to the area for the initial search and rescue.
After an extensive search of the area that included helicopters from LVMPD, the child was located in the canal at approximately 4:00 pm. "At that point, it became a recovery effort," Empey said.
According to Empey, official unit personnel and volunteers made every effort to locate the child in a rescue mode.
"The water in the canal was running so swift that I was having a hard time," one individual involved in the rescue effort said. He added that every available Mesquite Police Department Officer on duty "and some that weren't" responded to call. Mesquite Fire and Rescue Chief John Higley later said that "everyone we had responded to the scene."
After the irrigation canal pumps were shut down, "it became much easier to search the area," the person involved in the rescue effort who wished to remain unidentified,
said. Empey confirmed that the search became easier once the canal water was lowered.
Empey explained that while the water in the Virgin River itself is not very swift, the water in the canals can run extremely heavy at times. "When you get near them, it's extremely dangerous."
He added that a similar drowning occurred about two years ago in the general vicinity but with an adult as the victim.
Empey estimated that the body was located within 40 yards of where the child first entered the water.
Because the location of the tragedy is within Clark County jurisdiction and not Mesquite city limits, the follow-up investigation is being conducted by LVMPD. Detectives from Las Vegas were being called to the scene before the body could be removed.
Compounding the drowning incident, a person who was at the scene when the drowning occurred had a head-on collision with a Mesquite Police Department vehicle near the Riverside Road bridge as he was coming back to meet up with MPD officers and guide them to the area.
Neither the person driving the civilian car nor the MPD officer was seriously injured.
During the incident, the Mesquite Fire and Rescue Department received another call for an accident on I-15 at mile marker 108. It was unclear at press time about the injuries in that accident.
The name of the drowning victim and the other family members are being withheld pending notifications and further investigation.
AS OF 4:45 PM, Tuesday, May 15
According to Sgt Bret Empey, Las Vegas Metro PD, the body of a 3-year old girl was found in the water near an irrigation canal along the Virgin River about three miles up river from the Riverside Bridge in Mesquite approximately 4:00 pm this afternoon.
Search and Rescue crews were in a recovery mode rather than rescue mode according to Sgt Empey.
AS OF 3:50 PM Tuesday, May 15
A three year old girl has gone missing in the Virgin River after she fell into the fast moving water near an irrigation canal three miles up river from the Riverside Bridge in Mesquite. The accident happened approximately 12:30 this afternoon.
Clark County Metro Search and Rescue are flying helicopters over the river in search of the girl
MCJ is on the scene.
Posted Date: 05/16/2012 Our thoughts & prayers go out to this family, this is horrible. But maybe some good will come of it. This is precisely why we need a place for children of lower income families to go. Families with no money, no air conditioning in their home, forced to go to the river to cool off. The mayor and council are smart and thoughtful to build a water park at Hafen Park. But now we need a place where poor kids can go that has activities for children. By: Marcia
Posted Date: 05/16/2012 We are saying a prayer for the little girl and her family. By: Kathy
Posted Date: 05/16/2012 Seriously, time for a Boys and Girls Club here. If you don't want gangs, crime, pregnant teens, lets get busy on a place for kids. And not something associated with any religion. A place for all kids, no matter how poor. it is time. My families condolences to the childs family. By: Stan
Posted Date: 05/16/2012 Our thoughts and prsyers go out to the family. A special thank you to our dedicated men and women, police, fire, civilion, on and off duty for your efforts. Our prayers to them also. I know first hand this is one of their worst nightmares. By: proud citizen
Posted Date: 05/16/2012 We, in Mesquite, are sorry for your loss. Our prayers go with you. By: Sandi
Posted Date: 05/17/2012 God bless you sweet child, may the Lord hold you in his arms.
My thoughts and prayers are with the family, may the Lord give you comfort during this difficult time. By: Sheri