After going door-to-door all over the neighborhood, New York police were getting nowhere in their search for a missing toddler. However, one officer’s instinct led him to the most unlikely of places just minutes before the darkness and dropping temperatures set in.
When a 2-year-old girl went missing in South Bristol, New York, authorities knew it was a race against time to find her before the elements threatened their search and the little girl’s life. So, when the Ontario County Sheriff’s Office received a report that the child was nowhere to be found, they called in the state police to help, WHAM reports.
“It was getting close to getting dark out and getting cold. We wanted to get the search done as soon as we could,” said Ontario County Sheriff Kevin Henderson.
The first course of action for law enforcement was to search the immediate area. Officers knocked on every door in the neighborhood, asking locals if they had seen the little girl and if they could check to see if she had wandered onto their property. With hours passing and no luck, New York State Trooper Brian Hotchkiss got a feeling he just couldn’t shake.
“I began knocking on neighbors’ doors with a couple other troopers, alerting neighbors to check their property. They started contacting other neighbors and resources for help,” said Hotchkiss.
Trooper Hotchkiss had been interviewing residents when he began to wonder if the toddler may have headed toward Bristol Mountain, WROC reports. Although the summit was more than half a mile from the child’s home, he felt in his gut that he should check it out.
“These missing kids, it can go really bad. It’s time-sensitive depending on the time of year, so although it was a nice day, the temperature was dropping,” he said. “The mountain was virtually in her backyard, and there were streams and ponds and all these things that we were all worried about.”
Hotchkiss took two other troopers along with him and started the trek up the mountain. It took nearly an hour for them to get to the peak, which would be an unlikely journey for such a young child to accomplish. Knowing that her life was hanging in the balance, the officers refused to give up.
“I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I didn’t check. I kept climbing and climbing after about 45 minutes of the climb, I looked up to the summit of the mountain and all I could see were trees and dirt,” said Hotchkiss.
They continued to survey the area as the sun began to set, desperately scanning the mountainside for any sign that the child had been there. Just then, Hotchkiss “saw a pink dot” amid the foliage. Remembering that the girl was reportedly wearing a pink shirt when she went missing, he sprinted toward the pop of color. As he approached, he realized that what he had spotted was indeed the little girl, who was lying motionless on the ground. When he called to her, he couldn’t believe his eyes.
“I followed the stream and I located the child, she was lying on her stomach on a rock, and I ran over as quick as possible and I saw her arm move and I knew she was alive and my heart just dropped. I was so excited. I ran up, she hugged me immediately, she wouldn’t let go,” he said.
The little girl was shivering when Trooper Brian Hotchkiss picked her up, so he and another trooper wrapped her up in his uniform to keep her warm. The child was then transported to the hospital before being released without injury.
“I’ve seen these go really bad. We weren’t giving up. We were fearing the worst was going to happen. Her turning and looking at me, throwing her hands up in the air, that’s something I’ll never forget,” said Hotchkiss.
Authorities had called in a K-9 unit, a drone team, and numerous investigators to help find the missing child. With time and the elements against them, they scrambled to figure out where she could have gone. Incredibly, it all came down to one man’s instinct and determination to find the little girl alive.
Thankfully, Trooper Brian Hotchkiss wouldn’t rest until he had searched the mountain. Without his dedication, she may have been found too late. Thank God for Officer Hotchkiss and his intuition.