By Stephanie Bergman
ROCKPORT — The U.S. Coast Guard has pulled back its role in the saerch for the missing 2-year-old Caleigh Ann Harrison, viewing the case now as a recovery mission, rather than one of search and rescue.
An intense and resumed search for Caleigh, the 2-year, 9-month-old daughter of Allison Hammond of Washington Street, is continuing with state, local and environmental police still combing the area of Long Beach and Cape Hedge Beach. But some of those involved in the increasingly grim search, which was launched shortly after the little girl disappeared Thursday while playing by the water with her mother and her four-year-old sister Elizabeth, are conceding the odds are diminishing she will be found alive.
Massachusetts State Police reiterated this afternoon that they have not ruled any cause of her disappearance, including foul play. But authorities are clearly concentrating their search on a premise that Caleigh went into the water while her mom had briefly left the girls' to retrieve their ball, which had gone over a nearby wall.
Up to six divers have been in the water, primarily combing near rocks just off the beach and carrying on a search that was pulled back at 7 p.m. Thursday. A State Police team is also using a sidescan sonar device underwater to search.
Rockport police, Rockport Fire Department, the Coast Guard and other public safety departments are also on scene. Helicopters searching for Caleigh were once again circling overhead.
The site where Caleigh was last seen, where Long Beach meets Cape Hedge Beach, has been roped off with yellow crime scene tape, though Procopio said the scene was a potential crime scene, not a certain one.
Locals are searching for Caleigh as well, on their own or in small groups. Several fishing boats were noted in the area, and they also seemed to be searching the water.
"We don't want a lot people out there," said State Police Spekesman David Procopio. "We appreciate their good intentions, but leave it to the trained searchers."
The National Weather Service had put out a severe seas warning for Thursday and Friday, and Long Beach is noted for having a strong undertow. According to John "Tom" McCarthy, Rockport police chief, several years ago, a group of children playing in the same area came dangerously close to grief due to the strong current.
"There is often a riptide in that area," said McCarthy.
We will continue to update this story as any new information becomes available. For more, look to tomorrow's print and onlie editions of the Gloucester Daily Times and gloucestertimes.com.Stephanie Bergman can contacted at 978-283-7000 x3451 or email@example.com