NORTH NAPLES, Fla.- Collier County Sheriff's deputies safely returned a 7-year-old Pennsylvania girl to her mother after being reported missing on Easter Sunday. A CCSO helicopter found Amelia Wondrasch running along the beach near Clam Pass, more than a mile away from where she was reported missing.
Beachgoers, restaurant patrons, condo dwellers, and parking valets joined law enforcement officers and firefighters in the search for the child, who later told her mother she was chasing seagulls and didn't realize how far down shore she had gone.
Amelia became separated from her family, who were visiting from Malvern, Pa., while they were having Easter dinner at the Turtle Club restaurant on Vanderbilt Beach in North Naples on March 31.
Amelia had been collecting shells on the beach in back of the restaurant not far from where her parents, siblings and other family members were seated. When her mother went to bring her 5-year-old sister over to play, Amelia was nowhere to be found, Monica Wondrasch said.
CCSO was contacted and an extensive search began. Deputies with K9s and North Naples firefighters on ATVs combed the beach.
After about 15 minutes some beachgoers began to point in the direction that the helicopter was heading, toward Clam Pass.
The helicopter crew spotted a girl in a blue sundress in the area of Clam Pass who matched Amelia’s description.
Monica Wondrasch said even as she was being driven to the helicopter, she doubted that the girl she was going to see would be Amelia. But when Amelia emerged from the helicopter, her mother was overcome with emotion.
An emotional scene played out along the beach as word of the girl’s recovery spread.
“People were clapping from the balconies of high rises,” Cpl. DiMaio said. “People came up to me with tears in their eyes and said, ‘Thank you, CCSO.’ It was very humbling for me.”