The search for missing 12-year-old Mya Ann Arriaga of St. Peter, Minnesota, came to an end Saturday after a hunter, Nathan Stoffel, 28, found the girl – “who is nonverbal and has low-functioning autism along with epilepsy” – alive and clinging to a tree in the middle of a river, according to the WSBTV.
On the afternoon of November 12, Stoffel – who is a volunteer firefighter – went deer hunting near the Minnesota River with a group of his friends. It was reported that the hunter was aware that a special needs girl went missing early Friday morning on November 11 and a group of locals had formed a search party to find her.
Stoffel knew the missing girl could be in the area but stated that he didn’t have any high expectations in finding her but he was going to keep an eye out for her. However, the hunter was in for a shock when he saw Mya in the middle of the river, clinging to a tree.
“I knew right away that she shouldn’t be there,” Stoffel stated. “That’s something out of the ordinary.”
The hunter quickly called 911, believing that he found the body of the missing girl but as he was dialing, he realized that Mya was alive when she started to move her arm – that’s when he quickly ran to her aide.
Mya is a special needs girl who cannot speak, which made it difficult for the hunter to communicate with her. As he threw a line at her in the rushing water, she reportedly seemed to be confused as to what to do with the line.
“She never really made eye contact with me and I was like, ‘Help is here. It’s on the way!’ She was shivering and that’s when she turned her head and looked at me and it sent chills down my spine,” Stoffel said.
Just a few moments after the hunter’s attempt to rescue the missing girl from the water, a boat with three men on it were able to pull Mya to safety.
After the missing special needs girl was found alive, her mother Katrina Arriaga stated – in a statement – that she is “relieved that her daughter has been found.”
“Our family would like to thank the community for their thoughts and prayers, and requests privacy at this difficult time.”
St. Peter Police Chief Matthew Peters stated that he was amazed and so “happy at this outcome.”
This isn’t Mya’s first time disappearing without a trace. Her mother says, “She’s a very sneaky little turkey and won’t give up until she finds what she’s looking for.” Apparently, before the family moved to their new home, Mya left the home and walked to a gas station for snacks.
An alarm installed at their old home alerted the family when or if Mya left the house but at their new home, they hadn’t installed the alarm system, which made it feasible for Mya to go missing without her parent’s knowledge.
Katrina stated that she began to panic when she realized that her daughter went missing, saying that when she “saw her gone. I ran to the door, saw the door was open and called the cops.”
“I was expecting the worst, and honestly with the investigators saying the dogs stopped at the river, my heart sank.”
However, when Mya was found safe, she said: “I owe them [hunters] with her life and I’ll never be able to repay them.”
Mya, who sustained hypothermia, was taken to the Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota in Minneapolis for treatment and is expected to be okay. She will be able to return home next week.
Since the girl is unable to speak, her family may never know what happened while she was missing. Katrina says, “I don’t know what happened. We’ll never know, but I’m thankful for everyone who prayed and kept hope.”
[Featured Image By Matt Cardy/Getty Images]