Moment-by-moment: First responders tell of miraculous rescue of 2 children

Siblings found safe in woods just over 2 days after disappearing from Jacksonville mobile home park

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – They had been slogging through thick, rough woods for hours, fighting briar patches and thorns, and crawling through creeks.

Officer Blake Ortagus almost stepped on a snake and had to stop for a minute until it slithered on its way.

A call came over the radio: You’ve got about 20 minutes until the rainstorm hits.

The searchers looked at each other. They had one mind: We’re finishing this grid search -- rain or no rain.

Teams from the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department and Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office had been searching for 6-year-old Braxton Williams, and his 5-year-old sister, Bri’ya, since the pair were reported missing about 1:30 p.m. Sunday. They had last been seen by family about 11:30 a.m. Sunday playing in the front yard of their Westside mobile home.

As of 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, according to the Sheriff’s Office, investigators had searched more than 430 homes in the community, 130 acres and 20 bodies of water, using air units and K-9s. The FBI, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were among the agencies involved in the search.

Example of thick brush searchers slogged through as they looked for missing siblings. (WJXT)

Tuesday afternoon, as the search had just passed the crucial 48-hour mark in missing child cases, 19 JSO and JFRD personnel were walking in a line through woods not far from the mobile home park.


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