Woman on horseback helps find missing toddler in woods

Clackamas County

The little girl was not hurt

MOLALLA, Ore. (KOIN) — A toddler who wandered off during a walk with her grandma in the Molalla River Recreation Area was later found thanks to the help of bystanders.

The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office said 2-year-old Iris ran ahead on a trail and when her grandma, Gayla Ann Jay, reached a 4-way fork, she didn’t know which way the little girl went.

“I kept asking her to stop, wait, stay in sight, and then she vanished—just like poof,” said Jay.

The Molalla River Recreation Area. (CCSO)

She searched for about 15 minutes before going to find help. She flagged down several logging crews and the Clackamas County Search and Rescue team gathered other resources to help.

“I had just taken a picture of Iris, so I was able to show them what she was wearing,” said Jay. “She was wearing a bright red jacket, and her rainbow sparkle boots.”

Tammy Stevens was riding her horse, Bo, nearby and also joined the search along with her miniature Australian Shepherds, Wilson and Maddie.

“I really just followed instinct and thought ‘where would this person be?'” Stevens said. She rode around in a steep and dangerous area for about 20 minutes before she heard Iris crying. “I said, ‘Wilson, go get her, show me the way,’ and he did.”

Stevens said she made her way up to the trails at the north bridge where she could hear Iris, but couldn’t see her. Her dog Wilson continued to climb up the slope, so she got off her horse and followed.

“I climbed up, super steep — about 70 feet and there she was,” Stevens said. “She was pretty upset.”

Two-year-old Iris was found after getting lost in the woods in the Molalla River Recreation Area on Nov. 7, 2019. (CCSO)

A logger named Dave, who was also searching nearby, met up with Stevens, then carried Iris to the search teams.

“I was really glad to help,” Stevens said. “Good story all the way around.”

Stevens said Wilson is not trained for search and rescue but “he’s just a good boy and he loves to hunt.”

Officials said Iris was on Looney’s Trail about half a mile from Hardy Creek.

“I just want to thank them,” said Jay. “It was just amazing how many people showed up and low the loggers just stopped their day and didn’t continue their day until she was found—that was amazing.”

The sheriff’s office said they don’t usually want to encourage untrained people to help with search operations but they appreciate the help of people who were nearby and familiar with the terrain.

Iris was checked out by paramedics Molalla Fire once she was safely brought back to her family. The toddler is reportedly doing well after the ordeal.

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