Townsville emergency services and locals search for a missing girl near Black River. Picture: Zak Simmonds
Townsville emergency services and locals search for a missing girl near Black River. Picture: Zak Simmonds

Girl, six, drowns at popular swim spot

A FAMILY swimming trip on a sweltering hot day has ended in tragedy after a six-year-old girl drowned in a river north of Townsville.

Emergency services were called to the northern bank of the Black River, about 3km inland from the sea, after Alliannah Cathcart was reported missing just after 1.15pm yesterday.

She had been swimming in the area with her family before she disappeared

An extensive land and air search involving police, State Emergency Service crews and members of the public lasted almost two hours until Alliannah was found dead just before 3pm.

SES crews mounted an extensive search of the Black River area after Alliannah Cathcart was reported missing. Picture: Zak Simmonds
SES crews mounted an extensive search of the Black River area after Alliannah Cathcart was reported missing. Picture: Zak Simmonds

A Queensland Ambulance Services spokesman said it was believed the six-year-old Townsville girl had drowned.

"The child was located in the water, a rescue attempt was made by the helicopter crew and Queensland police members, unfortunately the child had passed away from drowning it seems at this time," he said.

Her death is being treated as not suspicious.

Residents of the tight knit Black River community reported hearing screams coming from the banks of the river as Alliannah's family realised she was missing

Rescue helicopter searches the Black River. Picture: Zak Simmonds
Rescue helicopter searches the Black River. Picture: Zak Simmonds

.A rescue helicopter hovered over the area as dozens of people mounted searches on quadbikes, dune buggies and utes.

For almost two hours they searched along the river from the sea to about 6km inland as the temperature in Townsville hit almost 36C.

People drove 4WDs up and down the scorching hot, dry river bed looking for Alliannah. Picture: Zak Simmonds
People drove 4WDs up and down the scorching hot, dry river bed looking for Alliannah. Picture: Zak Simmonds

A group of local fisherman who had travelled to the river for the afternoon also helped.

One man told the Bulletin a relative of the girl had been driving up and down the riverbed asking if anyone had seen her.

The mostly dry riverbed made for difficult terrain to search, with 4WDs needed to get through the soft sand.

When Alliannah's body was found a distressed relative was heard crying out for her.

It is understood the grieving relative had to be temporarily restrained by police as rescuers attended to the young girl, but it was too late to save her.

Alliannah was declared dead at the scene.

Black River locals joined the search as news of the missing young girl spread. Picture: Zak Simmonds
Black River locals joined the search as news of the missing young girl spread. Picture: Zak Simmonds

Local residents said the inland end of the Black River was a "popular" spot for swimming and fishing, particularly during the hot summer months.

The northern bank looks over the still water, which is very shallow for about three metres before it drops off to a depth of about two metres.

Emergency services searched around Black River where Alliannah had been spending the day with her family. Picture: Zak Simmonds
Emergency services searched around Black River where Alliannah had been spending the day with her family. Picture: Zak Simmonds

Alliannah's death was the second fatal drowning in the Townsville region in three days after a man in his 20s was pulled unconscious from water off Magnetic Island about 12.30pm on Friday.

Surf lifesavers and locals attempted to resuscitate the man but he was declared dead about 1pm.

In the south of the state a man died after being pulled unconscious from a lake on the Sunshine Coast on Sunday morning.

Surf Life Saving Queensland Townsville lifeguard supervisor Russell Blanchard urged people to remain vigilant around water.

"In the warmer months there's a lot more water activity and I reiterate that we should all be keeping an eye on everybody," he said.

Additional reporting: Tess Ikonomou



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