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Sun, Jun 27, 2004

Ultralight Pilots Locate Lost Girl

Missing 14-year-old found in Poconos swamp

The Associated Press has reported that a 14-year-old girl with Down syndrome who had gone missing for 10 hours from a religious retreat has been found by volunteers searching a swamp from the air using ultralight aircraft.

"We basically flew low over the trees until we saw her in the grassy swamp," pilot Todd Ritchie said Wednesday. "When we saw her, she waved at us. We radioed the ground teams and circled until they got to her."

Some 70 people joined the search for for Heidi Burkardt, who had gone missing at 10:00 on Wednesday at the Spruce Lake Christian Retreat.

Ritchie, Bill Barry and Glen Kreckman are all members of the Wing Nuts ultralight pilots group at Flyin Dollar airfield in Barrett Township (PA), found the lost girl at approximately 20:00 some three miles from the site of the retreat.

"When we found her, she looked OK," said Bob Hawk of the East Penn Mountaineers Search and Rescue group. "She was a little cold and shivering, but that was all."

Search team members cheered when Heidi was reunited with her mother, Cynthia Burkardt. The pair was visiting the retreat with a church group from Lancaster (PA).

FMI: www.ap.org

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