Three-Year-Old Reunited With Parents After Spending Night in South Carolina State Park

by Craig Garrett
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Father holding hand of his little daughter - stock photo

A 3-year-old who had been missing for almost 20 hours in Poinsett State Park in Wedgefield has now been found and reunited with her parents. Ruby Heider disappeared during a camping excursion with relatives and companions, NBC affiliate WISTV 10 News reports. The FBI, Air Force, Sumter County Sheriff’s Department, the Sumter Police Department, DNR officers, and SLED searched through the night and well into the next morning to locate the young girl.

Ruby was discovered, although frightened, cold, and dehydrated. Ruby went missing around 7 p.m. on Friday. Around 11 a.m. Saturday, she was spotted a mile away from where she vanished at around 7 p.m., according to the sheriff. “We brought in our imaging systems, our aviation unit, our drones. We got the State Law Enforcement Division assistance with our aviation as well,” Sheriff Anthony Dennis explained.

Friday night, bloodhounds and campers searched the park grounds. Tracey Hagen, a local camper, weighed in. “Every camper in this campground came out,” Hagen said. “We came out with flashlights, we started calling her name. We checked in with every camper at the site knocking on doors, asking if they had seen her.”

After Ruby’s mother came to their RV searching for her daughter, Rhonda Mason began looking for the child as well. According to Sheriff Dennis, Ruby got lost while trying to find a toilet at the campsite. Poinsett State Park was closed to the public while the search was on. “We are asking the public to stand by and not crowd the limited rural roads in the immediate area,” Sumter Sheriff’s Office Major Randall Stewart explained in a statement.

Sheriff Dennis praised authorities and local support for finding the girl

Sheriff Dennis gave thanks to the deputies from his office, as well as assistance from the Sumter City Police Department, Park Rangers, DNR, SLED, the FBI, Shaw AFB personnel, Lee County and Sumter County EMS, and Fire department. Multiple volunteers from the community also contributed. The sheriff thanked the community for assisting in the search. He says more than 150 volunteers showed up, and they had to turn some away.

Sheriff Dennis expressed his gratitude to the many residents who assisted in various ways, as well as for the prayers for Ruby’s safe return. He is grateful to state that those hopes were fulfilled that morning as a result of those supplications.

Poinsett State Park is located in Sumter County, South Carolina. The park’s most distinguishing feature is its floral oddities, which combine the flora of the Blue Ridge Mountains foothills and Piedmont of Upstate South Carolina with the xeric Sandhills and Atlantic coastal plain. Mountain laurels draped with Spanish moss may be seen at Poinsett State Park.

Joel Roberts Poinsett, an amateur botanist, and native of South Carolina was the first American ambassador to Mexico. He is also credited with popularizing the poinsettia plant. The park named after him – which has been described as “weird and beautiful” – charges a $3 admission fee. Overnight camping and cabin rentals incur additional small fees. Surrounded by Manchester State Forest, both the park and forest provide access to linked hiking and mountain bike trails (the latter additionally offers equestrian trails).

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