NEAR KENYON, Minn. - A little girl is safe at home after her disappearance triggered a massive community search near the southeast Minnesota communities of Nerstrand and Kenyon.
Four-year-old Sawyer Hanson was playing in the yard of her family's farmstead in Kenyon around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night when she wandered off. Her dad and aunt looked for her, became worried and called authorities.
Her family says Sawyer was looking for her kitten and wandered into a cornfield.
"It's the unimaginable. It's something you only read about. It's never going to be you," said Christy Hanson, Sawyer's mom. "By 7:30, my yard was full of people and it didn't stop until... I don't think it ever stopped."
An estimated 160 first responders and 40-50 family members and friends gathered to search nearby farm fields, and the State Patrol helicopter and drones were also utilized in an attempt to locate Sawyer. Finally, around 1:30 a.m., a family friend spotted Sawyer walking out of a field.
"To have 160 firefighters and law enforcement and ambulance personnel in rural Minnesota for a search like that, at that time of night... I think that just speaks volumes," Rice County Sheriff Troy Dunn said.
"She's been checked out. She's smiling. She's just mad she lost the cat," Sheriff Dunn can be heard saying in a Facebook video posted by the Kenyon Volunteer Fire Department.
Sheriff Dunn said in his 29 years in law enforcement, a search of this magnitude has happened only a handful of times.
"That she was still able to smile after being missing for seven hours in a cornfield is just amazing. So it brought... light to all of us," Sheriff Dunn said.
Sawyer's dad, Nicholas Hanson, said, "It's the scariest and then the most relieved, the happiest moment of my life."
Sawyer has a couple scratches on her face from the corn but is otherwise her normal self. Her cat is still missing but the family is thankful she's back home.
Her mom, Christy, said, "Just thank you to everyone. Truly grateful that we have such an amazing community and surrounding towns and that everyone worked together so well... just from the bottom of my heart, thank you."