Volunteers check Meyer Lake in Gilbertville, Iowa, during the search for Elizabeth Collins and her cousin Lyric Cook-Morrissey.
(By Dawn J. Sagert, Waterloo (Iowa) Courier, via AP)
Evansdale, IA (written by Timothy Meinch & Emily Schettler/Des Moines Register) -- Law enforcement officers and a small army of more than 1,100 volunteers in northeast Iowa came up empty over the weekend in their efforts to find two young girls who were declared missing two days earlier.
But authorities made it clear Sunday night that no one was giving up hope.
"We've covered everything we can cover with civilian people," said Marcus Norman, volunteer coordinator with Evansdale Fire Department. "Law enforcement is still working on the residential areas and things of that sort."
Elizabeth Collins, 8, and her cousin, Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, were last seen about 12:15 p.m. Friday by their grandmother as they were leaving for a bike ride.
The girls' bikes were found about 4 p.m. Friday at a nearby lake. Elizabeth Collins' purse and cellphone were located about 20 feet away. But authorities said they found no other signs of where the girls went or what happened to them.
Authorities said Sunday night they had no indications of foul play, but they were not ruling anything out, either. A reward fund of more than $15,000 has been raised in an effort to find the girls.
Elizabeth Collins is described as 4 feet 1 inch tall and 80 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes. Lyric Cook-Morrissey is 4 feet 11 inches tall and 145 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes.
A total of about 1,100 volunteers conducted an exhaustive foot-search covering the entire city limits of Evansdale and parts of Waterloo over the weekend. The search has included airplanes, dogs, boats and other technology with the help of state, local and national agencies, including the FBI, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Iowa fire and law enforcement departments.
Rescue crews completed dragging the five-acre Myers Lake on Sunday without finding the girls, said Black Hawk Sheriff's Deputy Rick Abben.
"Searchers are confident the girls are not in Myers Lake," Abben said.
Authorities met Sunday night to map strategy for Monday's search efforts.
Abben said Sunday night the search had been expanded to a 12-mile radius around Evansdale. A news conference will be held at 11 a.m. Monday to update the public on search efforts. Abben said authorities do not expect to organize additional volunteer searches.
The families of the two girls said they were hanging on to hope.
"Sometimes when you think about it, you wonder if they're dead somewhere, but you try to push those thoughts out of your mind," said Misty Cook-Morrissey, Lyric's mother. "It's been good talking to people. â€¦ It keeps your mind off of what's happening."
Though swimming is banned at the lake, Misty Cook-Morrissey said her daughter might have tried to swim anyway.
The family swims at another nearby lake regularly, and her daughter is a good swimmer, Lyric's mother said.
Elizabeth Collins' mother, Heather Collins, said it's rare for her daughter to venture too far from home, but she may have been persuaded by her older cousin.
"We've talked about that before," Collins said "We've told them they're too young to go far."
Evansdale resident Kim Einfelt cut a weekend trip short to return home and participate in the search. She and her husband know the Collins family well, and her 8-year-old daughter goes to school with Elizabeth.
"I felt sick not being here. I have an empty feeling in my gut," Einfelt said. "It just doesn't seem realistic. My daughter wanted me to come home and spend time with her, but I had to tell her, 'You're home safe. I need to help get these girls home safe. "