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Kayaker finds body; may be missing girl

A body believed to be that of a 5-year-old girl who fell through a dock over the weekend and was washed away in the Connecticut River in South Hadley was pulled from the water Wednesday, the Northwestern district attorney’s office said.

The body of the girl, who was visiting from California, was recovered in the river about 500 yards from where she fell into the rain-swollen waters Saturday night, District Attorney David E. Sullivan’s office said.

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The accident happened shortly after sunset, as the girl’s family prepared to watch a fireworks display from a residence on Cove Island Road.

“An eyewitness reports seeing the 5-year-old girl walking on a dock and then falling through a space between the end of the dock and a moored boat,” Sullivan’s office said in a statement.

Several adults dove into the river to save the girl, but they could not find her, the statement said. Recent rainfall had made the Connecticut River’s current stronger and faster than normal, officials said.

“As soon as she went in, she was gone with the current,” Captain Jim Pula of the South Hadley Fire Department told the Globe earlier.

Rescue teams responded to the scene around 9:25 p.m. Saturday, and immediately began searching for the girl, whom authorities have not identified. South Hadley police and a State Police dive team returned again around 10 a.m. Sunday and spent the day searching.

The dive team focused its attention Wednesday about an eighth of a mile downstream from where the girl fell in, State Police said. In addition to its team of divers, State Police used a helicopter, K-9 units, and sonar to search for her body.

But according to State Police spokesman Dave Procopio, it was a kayaker who found the body that officials believe is the missing girl.

A medical examiner will make a final confirmation, the DA’s office said.

The girl was the youngest member of a California family in town for an extended family gathering, Sullivan’s office said.

Colin A. Young can be reached at colin.young@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @ColinAYoung. Nicholas Jacques can be reached at nicholas.jacques@globe.com.
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