ST. PETER, MINN. - A man was hunting with a group of friends Saturday afternoon when he stumbled upon a 12-year-old girl clinging to a tree in the Minnesota River.
Nathan Stoffel, a volunteer firefighter, was hunting on his family's land northeast of St. Peter, when he found 12-year-old Mya Ann Arriaga.
"We will never forget it,” the 28-year-old said on Monday.
Mya was reported missing from her St. Peter home early Friday. The 12-year-old has special needs and doesn't speak.
Stoffel knew Mya was missing, so he said he decided to keep an eye out for her, but didn't have any expectations.
Then he found her, clinging to a tree in the middle of the river.
"As I got closer, I knew it was her. I panicked a bit,” Stoffel said. "Then I ran to her because I saw her arm moving." He called 911 and tried to direct responders to where he was to help bring her to safety.
"She made eye contact with me at one point and you could just see the fear. It was a look I will never forget," Stoffel said.
St. Peter Police Chief Matthew Peters called the rescue "amazing."
“We are so happy at this outcome,” Peters said.
For his part, Stoffel says although he was the one person in his party to come across her, he did not do this alone.
“It’s my whole crew. We decided to make the drive to that location. This is the best hunting story you’ll ever have. I mean we found a girl who had been missing for more than 30 hours. It's definitely a great feeling,” Stoffel added.
On Monday, Mya's parents released a statement thanking the community for their thoughts and prayers, and requests privacy at this time. Mya remains in fair condition at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.