Five days now into the search for 2-year-old Caleigh Ann Harrison, Massachusetts State Police and local authorities have found virtually no answers regarding the little Gloucester girl's disappearance, and they've spent the weekend and into this morning facing another obstacle: the weather.
With rains pelting Cape Ann Sunday, and heavy rains with high winds expected overnight into this morning, state police confirmed Sunday that the dive teams and other resources that have been a big part of the search efforts off Rockport's Long Beach would not re-enter the water until Tuesday, if Caleigh is not found before that.
State Police helicopters, which were also delayed in taking flight Saturday due to heavy morning fog, remained grounded Sunday and today as well, with any searching Sunday or today confined to ground efforts along Long Beach and areas just south of it.
Caleigh Ann Harrison, age two years, nine months, was last seen on the beach with her 4-year-old sister, Elizabeth, and her mother, Allison Hammond of Washington Street, shortly after noon last Thursday when a ball with which the little girls were playing went over a nearby stonewall. Hammond has reportedly told authorities that she left for perhaps a minute to retrieve the ball, and when she looked back, Caleigh was gone.
She is described as being less than 3 feet tall, and weighing 27 to 35 pounds, with light brown hair. She was last seen wearing a light pink top and darker pink bottoms,
Police and other rescuers have focused much of their search on the premise that Caleigh somehow went into the water, with the State Police divers and U.S. Coast Guard quickly joining in the search with helicopters and the cutter Flying Fish last Thursday and into Friday. The Coast Guard, which had searched an area covering some 250 miles off shore, pulled back its effort Friday afternoon, indicating that it considered the mission at that point one of "recovery" rather than "search and rescue."
Yet State Police have continued to emphasize that they have not ruled out foul play, including the possibility that Caleigh may have been abducted.
State Police did not and still have have not issued a so-called Amber Alert, and State Police spokesman David Procopio has said there was not enough evidence of a potential abduction to do so. State Police officials, however, also said that investigators from the Essex County District Attorney's Office were still conducting interviews with people in the area.
One of those carefully interviewed shortly after Caleigh's disappearance Thursday was her 4-year-old sister Elizabeth, who could be seen on the beach talking one-on-one with a police officer, and who also reportedly helped investigators retrace her and her sister's steps in the moments prior to Caleigh's disappearance.
WBZ radio reported Sunday that Elizabeth told police she does not remember what happened, and that State Police are looking to bring in a special child psychiatry investigative expert to speak with her again. But the Times has not been able to confirm that. A State Police spokesman told the Times Sunday, however, that he could not confirm that and was not aware of the report.
Meanwhile, the focus of the search, even while delayed, remains the offshore waters around Long Beach, Cape Head Beach, and over to Milk Island, where searchers scoured the area Saturday.
The area where Caleigh and Elizabeth were playing is near a small stream that flows out into the Atlantic — and her disappearance came shortly after high tide on Thursday, when seas were rough and the tide was strong, according to National Weather Service reports.
We will update this story online today at gloucestertimes.com when any new information becomes available. We are also providing updated coverage via Twitter.com@gdtnews, and through text updates that can be sent to readers' mobile phones.
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