Body of 12-year-old Mass. girl pulled from Vermont river

Searchers today recovered the body of a 12-year-old Massachusetts girl who apparently drowned in Vermont’s Winooski River after slipping under the surface and failing to emerge while swimming, authorities said.

Divers from the Vermont State Police Scuba Team and Colchester Technical Rescue discovered the body of Kaylynn Small of Springfield at about 10 a.m., approximately 17 hours after emergency responders were dispatched to the river between the Winooski Salmon Hole and a nearby railroad bridge, according to Vermont State Police.

Police said her death did not appear suspicious and there were no signs of foul play.

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Small was swimming with two friends in the river, which runs between Winooski and Burlington, around 5:15 p.m. Saturday when she went under the water and failed to resurface, said Winooski Police Chief Steve McQueen.

“The girls were in the water together when she got pulled under,” he said. “The other girls tried to grab her, couldn’t, got scared, and swam to a nearby embankment to alert a homeowner who dialed 911.”

Small and her 8-year-old brother were spending the summer with their paternal grandmother, Camille Small, as they had done for the past several years, McQueen said.

Small’s mother, Antionette Freeman of Springfield, traveled from Massachusetts to Vermont Saturday night as the search was underway, McQueen said.

Small’s family could not be reached for comment today.

Officials from Winooski and Burlington police and fire departments as well as the Colchester Technical Rescue began search operations immediately after dispatchers were notified Saturday and worked until about 9 p.m., when it became too dark to continue, according to police.

They resumed their search this morning together with the Vermont State Police Scuba Team.

Small was found in the river about 5 feet underwater, close to Millyard Condominiums and a canoe and boat launching area, according to Mike Cannon, team leader of Colchester Technical Rescue.

“The area where this took place was near a popular fishing area but was actually [downstream from] where people normally recreate,” Cannon said.

He said that the area of the river where Small was found fluctuates between 4 and 8 feet deep.

“Water levels really fluctuate in the area because of hydroelectric dams upstream,” Cannon said. “The water might rise 6 inches without you noticing, but that can double or triple the speed of the water and create undercurrents.”

The Winooski police department was continuing its investigation, and the medical examiner’s office was contacted, authorities said.

“Vermont is full of swimming holes and fishing areas and people must understand that even if the water seems calm on the surface, it may not be underneath,” McQueen said. “There’s always a danger of being in an open river. This is just a tragic accident.”

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