Horseback rider and her dogs track down lost 2-year-old in woods, Oregon cops say

A 2-year-old girl who went missing in Oregon on Thursday was found safe and sound with the help of a Good Samaritan on horseback and some local loggers, authorities said.

Gayla Ann Jay, a 62-year-old from Molalla, had been walking with two grandchildren in the Molalla River Recreation Area south of Portland before noon when 2-year-old Iris Nix ran ahead of her and disappeared, according to the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.

Jay tried to catch up to her granddaughter, but the trail she was following split into four paths — and she wasn’t sure which one Iris had taken, deputies said.

The grandmother searched for Iris for 15 minutes with no success, then flagged down some local logging crews that were passing by, who stopped and started scouring the terrain for the missing girl, according to authorities.

Meanwhile, authorities started sending deputies and search crews to the area.

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Tammy Stevens, a 59-year-old Beavercreek woman who was riding her horse Bo in the area at the time, also heard about the missing girl and pitched in, the Sheriff’s Office said. Stevens was with her two miniature Australian shepherds, Wilson and Maddie.

Stevens “described some of the terrain she was checking as steep and dangerous,” deputies said.

But roughly 20 minutes into her search, Stevens heard something: a child crying.

Stevens told her dog Wilson to “go get her, show me the way — and he did,” she said.

Clackamas County Sheriff's Office

That led Stevens to a steep hill, where she got off her horse and climbed 70 feet with her dog to find Iris around 1 p.m., according to authorities.

Stevens found a logger named Dave 10 minutes later, and he “was able to bring Iris to where deputies and medical personnel were staged,” authorities said.

“I really just followed instinct and thought ‘where would this person be?’” Stevens said of the search, according to KOIN.

First responders checked Iris out to make sure she was safe and then returned her to her family.

Authorities said Iris was found off “Looney’s Trail, about a half mile from Hardy Creek.”

“Normally, for safety and logistical reasons, we do not encourage untrained individuals to engage in search operations,” deputies said. “However, in this case, those who helped — and who located Iris — happened to be in the remote area and were familiar with the terrain, leading to a quick and successful rescue.”

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.