Florida deputies find child in swamp with help from helicopter's thermal imaging camera

Images show child walking through ankle-deep water before rescue
Posted at 2:21 PM, Feb 28, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-28 14:24:37-05

TAMPA, Fla. — A sheriff's aviation unit used thermal imaging to guide deputies to a missing 5-year-old who had disappeared in a swamp near Tampa.

The autistic girl wandered away from her home Monday evening and was quickly reported missing, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said.

The thermal camera captured images of the little girl walking through ankle-deep water.

"Hey, I think I got her in the woods," a deputy in the helicopter told deputies on the ground. "She might be able to hear her name if you call her. She might be about 80 feet in front of you."

A body camera recording showed the moment the deputies made contact with the child.

A deputy called her name and held up his arms. The little girl also held her arms up and walked toward him. He quickly picked the child up.

"Let's get you out of the water. I'll get you to everyone," he told her as they walked back through the woods.

"Their quick action saved the day, turning a potential tragedy into a hopeful reunion," the sheriff said. "Their dedication shows what service and protection are all about here at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office."