5-year-old who wandered away from Gilmanton home found 3 miles away

GILMANTON — A 5-year-old Brookline, N.H. girl is back in the safe arms of her family after she wandered away from a home here that her parents were visiting Sunday afternoon and a number of family, friends and public safety officials, spent the next seven hours looking for her. She was found hiding in a barn in Loudon, several miles away.

Police Chief Joe Collins said the child strayed from Rollins Pond Road shortly after 12:30 p.m. He said her family was visiting friends and all of them looked for her briefly before but notified police at 12:43 p.m.

"It was a terrifying seven hours," said Collins who said his officers, officers from the N.H. Department of Fish and Game, the State Police, the Gilmanton Fire Department and numerous friends and family began looking for her.

He said a team of K-9's from the New England Canine Search Team had just arrived when 10 or 12 volunteers from a farm on Blake Road in Loudon found the child hiding in their barn. Officials estimate she walked about 3 miles.

"She was smart to try and seek shelter," Collins said, noting that the temperatures dropped into the 30s Sunday night.

He said after police learned she was safe, he drove to the Blake Road farm to bring her back to Gilmanton. After he strapped her into the back seat of his cruiser he said she looked at him and said, "You know I'm supposed to be in a car seat."

He said he told her he didn't think Mommy would mind this one time but said she reminded him two more times as they were returning to Gilmanton.

"I guess she didn't want me to get in any trouble," Collins said, describing her a "cute as a button."

Collins said the family did the right thing by calling them right away. He said the sooner authorities learn of a missing child the sooner they can muster the resources they will need to find him or her.

"I'm just grateful we got a happy ending," describing the reunion as "quite an emotional thing."