The body of an 8-year-old girl who was presumed drowned in the Minnesota River was recovered Friday morning, approximately 14 hours after she went missing while swimming near a sandbar.
Willow Bense was found on a sandbar around 8:30 a.m., according to an update provided by Capt. Paul Barta with the Blue Earth County Sheriff's Office. Several agencies were assisting in the search for the girl since she went underwater and didn't resurface.
Responders were called just after 6 p.m. to Sibley Park in Mankato, where the girl was among a Janesville family who consists of a mother who were swimming in the river near a sandbar. Barta said initially the children were wearing life jackets, however, since they were playing on the sandbar, they decided to take them off.
"The children started to jump off the sandbar without their life jackets and into deeper water than they anticipated," Barta said.
Two of the children were seen by witnesses "struggling in the water." A bystander was able to rescue an 11-year-old, but couldn't get to Willow on time.
A search effort was launched and continued all night until her body was found Friday morning.
The Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office will do a full autopsy to determine the official cause of death in the coming days.
"Our hearts go out to the family at this time," Barta said.