UPDATE: Fort Gordon officials thank community during search for missing autistic girl

Dive teams out searching for 7-year-old Hannah Ross (WRDW-TV, April 29, 2012)
Dive teams out searching for 7-year-old Hannah Ross (WRDW-TV, April 29, 2012)
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Sunday, April 29, 2012

FORT GORDON, Ga. -- Fort Gordon officials have confirmed the body of 7-year-old Hannah Ross was found Sunday.

Multiple agencies found the little girl at the bottom of Soil Erosion Lake around 3:15 p.m. after searching for almost 24 hours.

Fort Gordon officials, hundreds of volunteers, Richmond and Columbia County deputies, K-9 Units, dive teams and a Georgia State Patrol helicopter had been searching for 7-year-old Hannah Ross behind the Lakeview housing area on Fort Gordon.

Cpt. Nino Philakham, a Fort Gordon soldier and part of the search party said, "The whole battalion showed up so we [had] approximately upwards of 500 soldiers out here looking for her."

We're told the little girl, who suffered from autism, was with her stepfather in the garage Saturday evening when she wandered off.

"They gave us sectors of areas to search around the vicinity where she was last seen," Philakham said.

This happened around 6:45 p.m. Saturday. As the hours ticked by though, the perimeter grew, and fears mounted -- especially because the family just moved to Fort Gordon a week ago and the little girl wasn't familiar with the area.

Those who knew Hannah say she liked to touch water when she was upset. It calmed her down.

Searches of this scale are not your typical scene at Fort Gordon.

"This is not common at all. Since I've been here this has never happened," Philakham said.

At the time of her disappearance, she was not wearing shoes, leading officials to believe she wouldn't have gone very far.

But unfortunately, what divers feared came true. They found the girl's body at the bottom of the lake behind her home.

"We care for our own and so we feel like this is our daughter," Philakham said.

Fort Gordon officials released this message:
"We appreciate the teamwork displayed by hundreds of volunteers who went into action immediately, to include the Columbia and Richmond County Sheriff’s office, their K-9 units, their rescue dive teams, as well as the dive team of the Georgia State Patrol, SWAT Division.

The leaders and families of Fort Gordon thank them so much for their generous support. The level of cooperation that was displayed is a testimony to the strong and unique relationship that exists between Fort Gordon and our surrounding communities. Our prayers go out to the family."