Search for 6-Year-Old Girl Swept Away in Pennsylvania Creek Now a 'Recovery Effort': 'Extremely Sad Day'

Officials said Lin'ajah Brooker slipped and fell into Chester Creek amid heavy rain

  • Rescuers were searching for Lin'ajah Brooker, who fell into Chester Creek early Saturday evening, officials said

  • It is uncertain how the girl and her playmates accessed the creek, per authorities

  • “This is an extremely sad day for the city of Chester,” said Mayor Stefan Roots at a news conference Sunday

Officials said that a search for a 6-year-old girl who fell into a Pennsylvania creek over the weekend has now become a "recovery effort."

At a news conference Sunday, Chester Mayor Stefan Roots said emergency services were notified that a juvenile, identified by CBS as Lin'ajah Brooker, slipped and fell into Chester Creek early Saturday evening amid heavy rain. He said this was a “tough time” for his city.

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“This is an extremely sad day for the city of Chester,” said Roots. “The family is still seeking answers as we continue to search for the little girl…[The Coast Guard] explained to us a young lady or a little girl of that size with the temperature of the water and the time, the chances of searching and rescuing are very short…All across the city, we are in mourning for this little girl.”

Chester Fire Commissioner John-Paul Shirley said local emergency responders and the Coast Guard searched the creek throughout the weekend with the assistance of drones and boats.

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“This is no longer a rescue effort, it’s a recovery effort,” he said at Sunday’s press conference. “We’re going to be continuing to search until it starts to get dark out again, and at that point, we’ll begin ceasing all search efforts.”

“We were always hopeful that we could find something,” Shirley further said. “Now there’s without a doubt once we had the sunlight on our side and we were able to do a much more thorough search that it wasn’t going to be a rescue, it was going to be a recovery."

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According to ABC affiliate WPIV, authorities said three girls were playing near the creek when two of them fell in. One of the girls managed to escape while Lin'ajah was caught in the water.

Tyeesha Reynolds, Lin’ajah’s aunt, told the outlet: “She went down a little too far with the other kids, and my 7-year-old daughter tried to hold her and she was holding onto my daughter's coat and I guess the wind took her.”

Roots said it was important that more safe play spaces for children were created.

“Waters are attractive to children,” he said. “They were down at the banks of the water at the very wrong time. After all that rain, it was very slippery. It could’ve been just a slip or fall, we don’t know. We don’t have those details.”

Related: Dad and 10-Year-Old Daughter Die After Getting Swept Away by Rip Current on Family Beach Outing

The mayor later noted how the creek may have been accessed: “We looked at the playground There is a fence, there is a small area that a child can go through. That does exist. The unfortunate part is that there is a row of houses that lead up to the playground and if you just go right out of the back door of those houses and go past the driveway, you’re right at the [creek] banks as well with no fencing at all. We’re not sure if the children left from the playground to get to the banks or maybe they walked down the back alley.”

He said that he and officials plan to return to the scene on Monday to see how to protect the back alley from access to the creek.

Per NBC affiliate WCAU, Kimberly Richardson, who told the outlet she is Lin'ajah’s grandmother, said that her family was preparing for the worst: "I'm sad. My emotions are off the hinge. I haven't had sleep. I can't eat. The only thing I'm thinking about is finding her."

At the press conference, Roots said that what happened is a cautionary tale for all communities to make sure children have safe places to play. “To the parents, please know where you’re children are playing,” he added.

PEOPLE reached out to the Chester Fire Department for additional information.

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