Girl Found Dead In Arizona Mine Shaft; 2nd Girl Critical

A 13-year-old girl who went missing while riding an all-terrain vehicle in northwestern Arizona was found dead in a mine shaft, while her 10-year-old companion was rescued with serious injuries early Sunday, authorities said.

A rope team descended into the vertical shaft, where the teen was found dead, Mohave County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Sandy Edwards said.

The girl's body had been recovered by Sunday afternoon and her family notified of her death.

Edwards did not know how the girls got into the mine or how far down they were.

The pair went missing about 7 p.m. Saturday.

Officials discovered they were in the shaft about 6:20 a.m. Sunday in
Chloride, about 17 miles north of Kingman.

The 10-year-old was taken to University Medical Center in Las Vegas with "major injuries," Edwards said.

A hospital spokeswoman said the girl was in critical condition.

The girl's family said through hospital spokeswoman Cheryl Persinger that they didn't want to talk to the media.

Seth Johnson, a neighbor of the girls and their family's landlord, said the two were half-sisters and identified them as 13-year-old Rikki Howard and 10-year-old Casie Hicks.

The sheriff's office hadn't officially identified them as of Sunday afternoon.

Johnson said the girls' family was at the Las Vegas hospital.

"It's an awful shock," Johnson said.

"Their parents are very distraught."

Cathy Kelso, a bus driver for Mt. Tipton School in Dolan Springs, said she has been driving the two girls to school for a year and a half.

"They were loved by everybody," she said.

"They're little sweetheart girls. I just keep hoping it's not true, but it's

Laurie Swartzbaugh, deputy director of the Arizona State Mine Inspector's office, said she did not know whether the mine was abandoned or active, but 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."

She said abandoned mines can be up to 40 feet deep or more.

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