Volunteers end Mississippi River search for missing 8-year-old girl

Published 9:31 pm Thursday, May 19, 2022

After nearly a month, a search-and-rescue boaters’ group has suspended its search for an 8-year-old girl who fell into the Mississippi River last month, the group said Thursday.

“It is with an extremely heavy, and painfully broken heart” that the United Cajun Navy “conveys that we’ve exhausted our available resources for this mission, and must scale back our search operation to include only a team of local volunteers,” said a message on the group’s Facebook page.

The group had been searching since April 23, when Ally Berry-Wilson, her sister Brandy Wilson, 14, and Brandy Wilson’s friend, Kevin Poole, 15, fell into the river from a park on New Orleans’ west bank. The Coast Guard suspended its search after two days, but the volunteers and law enforcement agencies kept on and located Wilson’s body in early May.

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Family members have told news outlets they believe Brandy Wilson slipped into the river first, and the others tried to save her. Poole’s body was found first.

About a half-dozen volunteers, some from United Cajun Navy, are still searching, group spokesperson Brian Trascher said in an email.

“Some are pilots and boat captains who are scanning the river while running their usual routes, and some are local citizens on foot who are searching some of the areas of interest on their own time,” he wrote.

Airplane and drone pilots, tugboat captains, K-9 dogs, and local and out-of-state volunteers joined the search on foot, horseback and ATVs, the United Cajun Navy said.

“Unfortunately we’ve not found any new leads that would bring us closer to locating her,” the group said.

Trascher said drone teams, search dogs, ATVs, and a mounted posse were all volunteers paying their own way. “There is only so much time we can keep them around before they have to return to their homes and jobs,” he said.

“We stand ready to ramp up again” should circumstances change, the Facebook message said.