Hunter finds missing autistic girl clinging to tree in river

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ST. PETER, MN (KARE) — Nathan Stoffel enjoys hunting on his family’s land northeast of St. Peter, Minnesota, but this past weekend was different.

“This was the hunt of a lifetime. We will never forget it,” the 28-year-old said on Monday.

Stoffel, a volunteer firefighter in the small town of Cleveland, heard about the search for 12-year-old Mya Ann Arriaga. The girl has special needs and doesn’t speak. She was reported missing from her St. Peter home early Friday.

On Saturday afternoon, Stoffel and a group of about a dozen other guys went hunting. Stoffel, knowing Arriaga might be around water, kept an eye out for her. He didn’t have any expectations.

Then he found Mya, clinging to a tree in the middle of the Minnesota River.

“As I got closer, I knew it was her. I panicked a bit,” Stoffel said. “Then I ran to her because I saw her arm moving.”

“She made eye contact with me at one point and you could just see the fear. It was a look I will never forget,” Stoffel said.

On Monday, Mya’s parents released a statement thanking the community for their thoughts and prayers, and requests privacy at this time. Mya remains in fair condition at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

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