7 P.M. UPDATE: Authorities STILL Searching for Missing 7-year-old Watson Girl
7 p.m. UPDATE: Here is a press briefing from Effingham County Sheriff John Monnet from thexradio.com
(4:30 p.m. Update) 4PM UPDATE from the thexradio.com: The search for Willow will resume at 5pm. All responders, emergency and volunteer, were allowed time for rest and rehab starting at 2pm. A full search effort will progress until 8pm. At that time, due to lack of daylight the search efforts of the volunteer responders will be suspended until further notice. Search efforts by emergency-trained responders will be coordinated from that point, based on the progress made between 5 and 8pm. Authorities are reporting no additional leads. Effingham County Sheriff John Monnet will make a live statement at 5pm, and we will carry that on the news at 5 on 979 XFM and KJ Country 102.3.
(3:00 p.m. Update) 1PM UPDATE from the thexradio.com: The search for Willow Long took a break this afternoon to allow searchers time for some shade and rest. At an early afternoon media briefing, Effingham County Chief Deputy Sheriff John Niccum said, "There's not much change; we are still investigating; we are still searching." When asked how long the search will continue, Niccum said, "We don't know when it will end." Effingham and Watson firefighter J.R. Nieman said searchers have covered 18 square miles of the 20 square miles targeted initially. Nieman said some areas have been double- and triple-checked.
As the heat index hovered around 100 degrees, Nieman said, "We're concerned that she's seven years old, with the heat and humidity, out overnight." He said best estimates are that Willow could have traveled three miles from her home, and said that's why the search was initially concentrated in that area.
Officials again asked that anyone with video footage from Watson Sunday or today should contact the Effingham County Sheriff's Department. That includes outdoor video surveillance cameras or footage you might have been shooting of a birthday party. They say while you were concentrating on something in the foreground of the video, there might be something in the background that could help authorities in their search.
Also, those who live on farms or in rural areas are being asked to please check in their outbuildings. And, check whether toys might be missing or might have been moved from where they were last night.
Shumway firefighter Justin Quandt told residents that searchers would be going on their properties, but to not be alarmed, "it's us" he said.
HELP FOR VOLUNTEERS will again be accepted at Effingham's Culver's, on West Fayette Avenue. Bottled water or sports drinks are a need, healthy snacks, sunscreen, insect repellent and towels are items that will be helpful.
2:30 p.m. Update from 979 XFM: VOLUNTEERS HAVE BEEN SUSPENDED until 5pm in the search for 7-year old Willow Long if Watson, due to the heat. Volunteers will resume at 5pm. SUPPLIES FOR VOLUNTEERS are again being accepted at Culver's in Effingham, and will leave at 4pm for Watson. BOTTLED WATER or sports drinks are a need (no soda), healthy snacks, sunscreen, insect repellent and towels are items that will be helpful.
(11:05 a.m. Update) 10:55AM UPDATE thexradio.com: HELP FOR VOLUNTEERS: We've gotten word that the family at Culver's, on West Fayette Avenue in Effingham, will be taking another trailer-load of supplies to Watson AT 1PM to aid volunteers and officials. Bottled water and sports drinks, healthy snacks, AA batteries, sunscreen, insect repellent and paper towels or washrags are some items that would be beneficial.
(10:50 a.m. Update) 10:20AM UPDATE from the thexradio.com: Authorities tell us that the reported description of the clothing that was thought to be worn by Willow is no longer valid. It was initially reported that Willow was wearing a lavender Betty Boop oversize t-shirt, but that shirt has now been located in the home. Police tell us that they now do not have a description of what Long was wearing when she went missing from her home, now more than 24 hours ago in Watson.
(8:50 a.m. Update) An 8AM UPDATE from the thexradio.com: Effingham County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Paul Kuhns says there is still no evidence of foul play. Searchers have now covered an 8-square mile radius from Long's home, and found nothing. Authorities are also going door to door in areas that were previously searched. Kuhns encoraged those in rural area to check their outbuildings. Kuhns said, "if anything is found out of place, a toy that might be in a different spot than they remember it being, please phone the Sheriff's office at 217-342-2101". When asked about the length of the search, Kuhns aknowledged, "time is not our friend".
Firefighter J.R. Niemann asked that any video shot in this area Sunday, should be taken to the Sheriff's department. He said people that shot video may have been filming one thing, but they may have captured something that might be beneficial to police in locating the missing Willow Long, now approaching the 24-hour period since she's been seen.
Volunteers should report to the Watson Civic Center, located one block east of the fire station. People wishing to donate items like bottled water and other supplies to help searchers, should take items to the Watson Civic Center.
1AM MONDAY UPDATE thexradio.com: Volunteers have been recalled, with nothing found. Dive teams have completed searching a pond that was reported to have footprints "all the way around it", but didn't find anything. Teams have moved on to another pond. Officials will continue to search throughout the night.
IMPORTANT thexradio.com: Volunteers will need to report to the Watson Civic Center in the morning, NOT the fire station. Volunteers may begin to arrive at 6am, but it should be noted that busses will not arive until around 7:30, after they have dropped off kids at school Monday morning. Unit 40 sent out an update Sunday evening advising that school would be in session in the district, and that counselors would be on hand at Southside Grade School for students and teachers. Many of the teachers and faculty from Southside School were on hand and involved in the search Sunday evening for Willow.
Air searches using a thermal imaging system are about to resume in the area, and officials again urge against private citizens searching for Long on their own, as false-positives will only slow the search process.
We will be back with updates when officials return from overnight searches at 6am. Be sure to monitor our Facebook and Twitter pages (linked above) for additional updates.
11:30PM UPDATE thexradio.com: Authorities say they will call in all volunteers at 1am. Police will resume air searches at 1:30am using thermal imaging. Public volunteers may report back at 6am to the Watson Civic Center. Through the night, officials will continue to search in teams for Willow, using ATVs, patrol vehicles and foot searches.
Effingham County Sheriff John Monnet also confirmed that Effingham County Dive Rescue has been dispatched to a pond north of Watson that has "small footprints all the way around it". Search dogs did not hit on these footprints, but Monnet said the pond will be searched in the continued effort to locate the 7-year old Long, who walked away from her residence more than 12 hours ago.
Below is video from a press conference ealier this evening. We apologize for the delay in getting it online, internet speeds in Watson are an issue. From thexradio.com:
(10:30 p.m. Update) 10PM UPDATE from thexradio.com: Authorities tell us they are about to begin a search north of Chaparral Subdivision, in grid-formation, based on earlier tracking dogs indications of possible northern travel by Long.
A large crowd still remains at the Watson Fire Station, with many of them waiting to be dispatched on 4-wheelers and side-by-sides. Horse teams are also set to begin searching.
(9:15 p.m. Update) Here is an 8:30PM UPDATE from the thexradio.com: Effingham County Sheriff John Monnet said, "We don't feel there's foul play, that she just walked off. We're gonna continue until we find her". The Sheriff said, however, "it's been quite a time since she's been missing, and time is not a good thing." Monnet said Willow's mother Cierra Deryke was feeling ill, and was in bed. She got up once to check on Willow and her 3-year old brother, and they were watching TV. She got up later and Willow was gone. She asked her son where Willow was, and the boy pointed toward the front door.
Monnet said Long was wearing a lavendar oversize shirt, bearing the "Betty Boop" emblem. Authorities think she might have gone barefoot. Monnet said tracking dog seemed to indicate she may have traveled toward Effingham, perhaps along the railroad tracks.
8:50PM UPDATE: We are hearing several unofficial reports from people who are out searching in groups for Willow, that some groups of searchers are being pulled out of the area they are looking because footprints have been found near a pond. They are sending in a K-9 unit to the pond. The exact location of the pond is unknown at this time, but is a pond in the north part of Watson.
7:30PM UPDATE from the thexradio.com: At approximately 8pm, authorities say they will begin changing their search pattern. Volunteers had been heading out in teams, being transported on flatbed trucks, vans and pickup trucks. This will change to a more surgical type of search at dusk. IMPORTANT: INDIVIDUAL SEARCHERS ARE ASKED TO STOP, and report instead to the Watson Fire Station for deployment, as the use of FLIER (forward looking infared radar) will begin. Any individuals out searching on their own may be spotted by this radar, and search teams will respond those "hits" on the radar, slowing the search for the girl.
EFFINGHAM CO.—Authorities say Willow Long, 7, of Watson walked away from her home on Circle Drive in Watson this Sunday morning (September 8), and has not been seen since. The Effingham County Sheriff's Department is currently searching for her and Watson's Fire Department has been set up as an area for search teams as authorities look over the area for the girl. Watson Fire Chief Matt Kulesza said this afternoon, "Search volunteers are not being sought, but those that show up to help will not be turned away." And that "search dogs are on the way to help, and an Illinois State Police search plane is on standby."
Here is the description of Willow, she is "approximately 4-foot tall, and has shoulder-length red hair. She was last seen wearing a long purple shirt, oversize like a nightgown." As well, when Willow left home this morning, her mother says she didn't take her glasses.
Please contact the Effingham County Sheriff's Department at (217) 342-2101, if you have seen, or know of Willow's location.
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