Teen Who Went Missing On ATV Found Dead In Mine

Sunday, September 2nd 2007, 7:17 pm
By: News On 6

PHOENIX, Ariz. (AP) _ A 13-year-old girl who fell into an unmarked mine shaft while riding an all-terrain vehicle was found dead at the bottom Sunday, and her 10-year old sister was rescued with serious injuries, authorities said.

The girls, 13-year-old Rikki Howard and 10-year-old Casie Hicks, were riding around 7 p.m. Saturday when their father, who was riding ahead of them on a dirt bike, noticed the girls were missing.

``They were driving along and they went into the mine. It was a total accident,'' Mohave County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Sandy Edwards said.

Sheriff's personnel tracked the ATV to the 125-foot mine shaft at 6:20 a.m. Sunday, and one of the girls responded when her father called out, officials said. Crews later rappelled into the mine and found the girls and the vehicle at the bottom.

The mine is located in Chloride, about 17 miles north of Kingman. It had no signs or barriers, and officials believe it was inactive.

The 10-year-old girl was transported to University Medical Center in Las Vegas, Edwards said. She was in critical condition Sunday afternoon, a hospital spokesman said. The girl's family declined to comment through the hospital.

Seth Johnson, a neighbor of the girls and their family's landlord, said the two were half-sisters. Their family was at the Las Vegas hospital, he said.

``It's an awful shock,'' Johnson said. ``Their parents are very distraught.''

Cathy Kelso, a bus driver, said she has been driving the two girls to school for a year and a half. ``They're little sweetheart girls,'' she said. ``I just keep hoping it's not true, but it's horrible.''

Laurie Swartzbaugh, deputy director of the Arizona State Mine Inspector's office, said that the mine had not been used for some time, and that the office was investigating. She said abandoned mines are common in the state, and that since Jan. 1, the office has secured 108 of them.

``There's a significant amount of abandoned mines out there that are hazardous to the public's health,'' she said. ``Most of those mines are from old prospectors who would go in and they would mine and they'd just pick up leave. And there are some very dangerous ones that are very deep.''