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Days after a boy drowned, a girl went missing from Michigan's Flint River

A 7-year-old child drowned in Michigan's Flint River over the weekend and authorities are searching for a second child who is presumed dead after falling into the river the next day.

The first child, a 7-year-old boy with special needs, became lost and drowned in the Flint River on Saturday, Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson told USA TODAY.

The next day, a 6-year-old girl got lost and was spotted in the river, the sheriff confirmed to USA TODAY Wednesday afternoon. The sheriff's office previously gave an incorrect age for the girl.

“We had back-to-back child drownings within 24 hours on the same river, in two different parts of the city, and both were fatal,” Swanson told USA TODAY.

Flint Fire Chief Theron Wiggins said in a statement to USA TODAY that he was “deeply saddened” by the death of the 7-year-old child in the Flint River on Saturday.

“I want to remind our community that playing near the Flint River is dangerous due to hidden debris and strong currents,” Wiggins said. “As the weather warms, I encourage families to stay safe while enjoying Flint’s natural resources and parks.”

6-year-old and another child slipped into the river: Sheriff

Swanson said the 6-year-old girl was with a 9-year-old around 5:15 p.m. Sunday when the two left their home.

“There are cement banks that extend into the river at a 40-degree angle,” he said. “They’re probably 30 feet long in the river. Well, they slipped over the concrete bank into the river. The 9-year-old was able to climb out and the 6-year-old is the one we're looking for.”

When authorities discovered the girl, the river was moving at five to eight miles per hour and looked “very murky,” he said. By the time searchers were sent into the river, she had already gone underwater and authorities were clear that the case was a recovery, not a rescue.

“Since then, we have had 75 to 100 employees and volunteers working every day,” he said. “We have a dive team group made up of counties in southeastern Michigan … about 14 counties that have brought the best technology we can have. We lowered the river by 18 inches by closing two dams upstream.”

He said the crew was waiting to see if she would surface.

“The problem with this river is that it is so dangerous and full of hazards and trees,” Swanson said in a video posted to Facebook on Monday.

He said the river contains water that flows under the banks, making room for a body to rest. He said the fact that there is running water also makes things difficult. When he shot the video, the water didn't look dangerous, he noted, but the undertow was still there and posed a threat.

“One of our sergeants actually saw the victim yesterday, wearing a little pink shirt, so we knew that was the starting point,” he said in the video Monday.

The same crew responded to both incidents, Swanson told USA TODAY. Two apparent drownings in one weekend were “serious” for everyone involved, the sheriff said.

“Hug your family,” he said. “Love your family.”

Saleen Martin is a reporter on USA TODAY's NOW team. She's from Norfolk, Virginia – the 757. Follow her on Twitter at @SaleenMartin or send her an email at [email protected].

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