Texas girl found dead in Yampa River near Craig | SteamboatToday.com

Texas girl found dead in Yampa River near Craig

Jerry Raehal

— A 13-year-old girl who had been missing since 6 p.m. Sunday was found dead Monday morning in the Yampa River.

Karen Valdez, of Stephenville, Texas, was last seen swimming in the river, just west of Loudy-Simpson Park.

Her body was found 50 feet down river from where she was last observed, under 8 feet of water at about 8:30 a.m., Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz said. The girl was not wearing a life jacket.

Jantz said the incident occurred when Valdez and her cousins – who she was visiting, along with her uncle and aunt – were playing in the river.

“Our victim slipped and kind of slid in a hole,” Jantz said. “She grabbed a cousin. The cousin stood up, and they saw the victim go under the water. That was the last they saw her, which was about 10 minutes prior to the time they called us.

“There was a person in the water. I don’t know if it was a cousin or friend that was right there who attempted to find her right way. : This is a severe tragedy.”

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Search and rescue told Jantz there was an undercurrent where the girl was found, which “makes the surface water not look as fast, but you have a pretty good undercurrent that’s there.

“We don’t know the cause. : Whether (the undercurrent) was a factor, we do not know.”

The Moffat County Sheriff’s Office was dispatched to the scene at 6 p.m. Sunday, with deputies arriving around 6:05 p.m. The search was called off at around 8:45 p.m. due to darkness and for safety of the search and resuce crewmembers.

The search continued at 6:30 a.m. Monday “at first light,” Jantz said. An airplane flown by Luke Tucker, who also helped with the search Sunday night, spotted the girl’s body.

The Sheriff’s Office is ruling the death an accident.

The girl’s name wasn’t released until 3 p.m. Monday, to allow the family to be notified. Valdez’s family was driving in from Texas.

Approximately 35 people helped with the search and rescue effort Monday, and 30 to 35 people helped Sunday night.

Agencies involved in the search included the Sheriff’s Office, Moffat County Search and Rescue, Bureau of Land Management, Colorado State Patrol, Craig Fire/Rescue and The Memorial Hospital.

Jerry Raehal can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 204, or editor@craigdailypress.com.