On March 27, one South Bristol, New York, family’s world was turned upside-down. Their 2-year-old girl went missing, and time was running out.
“These missing kids, it can go like, just, really bad. It’s very time-sensitive depending on the year, so it was, it was — though it was a rather nice day, the temperature was dropping,” New York State Trooper Brian Hotchkiss told WROC-TV.
“The mountain was virtually in their backyard, and I mean there were streams and ponds and, you know, all these things that, you know, we were all worried about.”
Authorities knocked on neighbors’ doors, but no sightings turned up. A drone team, a K-9 and other investigators also arrived to help with the search.
Hotchkiss and two other troopers made the decision to climb the nearby mountain in an attempt to see if they could spot the little girl before they lost all visibility.
It took the trooper about an hour to reach and scale the mountain, but as he looked down from his spot, he saw a “pink dot” amidst the gray of the mountain terrain.
He had to pick his way down, following the stream and hoping that she was okay.
“She was laying on her stomach on a rock and I ran over to her as quick — calling her name,” Hotchkiss said, according to WHEC-TV. “Ran over to her as quick as possible.”
“I saw her arm move and I knew she was alive and my heart just dropped and I was so — I was so excited and I ran up and she hugged me immediately and she wouldn’t let go and I got on my radio and I alerted everyone — all the searchers — that I located her at the top of the mountain.”
The girl was clinging to him, crying and shivering, but she was safe.
“We got her down to the — to the base as quick as possible and, you know as safely as possible also, where she was treated by the Canandaigua Ambulance and my understanding is transported to the hospital for a basic check over,” Hotchkiss explained.
“Trooper Sterk had, you know, wrapped her in his uniform to keep her warm and I’m just … I’m blessed that it worked out the way it did.”
It was a relief to all that the young girl was found. It was not clear whether she went back to her home immediately or not, but sources did say she was safe and healthy.
“On Saturday, Troopers from SP Canandaigua assisted the Ontario County Sheriff’s Office in a search for a missing two-year-old in the town of South Bristol,” the New York State Police Facebook page shared on March 29, along with a photo of the toddler clinging to her hero.
“After about an hour of searching, Trooper Brian Hotchkiss found the child sitting on a rock, in the middle of a stream. Cold, but alert, Troopers carried the girl back home to safety.”
Thankfully for all involved, this story had a happy ending — and it’s one that will stick with Hotchkiss forever.
“I still can’t get that out of my head, her turning over and looking at me and throwing her hands up in the air,” he said, “and I’ll … it’s something I’ll never forget.”