Search continues for German girl missing off Ameland coast

Sunset over the North Sea from Ameland, Friesland. June 2020
Sunset over the North Sea from Ameland, Friesland. June 2020TravelTellyDepositPhotosDeposit Photos

Authorities were set Monday morning to renew search efforts for a missing 14-year-old swimmer who found herself in trouble off the coast of Ameland on Saturday night. The young German girl was watching the late sunset with her sister and her father when the three began fighting against a rough North Sea current at about 10:30 p.m.

The family visited the island as tourists on vacation, with rescue service KNRM calling Saturday "a beautiful beach day" which ended in tragedy. The call came in for three swimmers in need of assistance when they drifted away because of the strong current. "The father and one of the two daughters were able to reach the beach again themselves, and were aided by the lifeguards' rescue post in Buren," the KNRM said.

Rescuers searched into the night past 3 a.m. early Sunday morning, and restarted the search after a two-hour break. This continued throughout the day to no avail. The search was temporarily halted after sundown on Sunday, and from around 5:30 a.m. on Monday about 18 shrimp trawlers had already answered the call to search the northern coastline of the island.

Police in Friesland said the mission was no longer being considered a rescue operation, but rather a recovery. By Sunday night, authorities had lost hope they would find the German teenager alive.

"The chances of that are very small. We have to be realistic," a spokesperson told the Telegraaf. "We are at least searching with all our might, and hope that at a minimum we find her body. Everything is now focused on that."

The Coast Guard, firefighters and rescue service KNRM joined in the search, with many local residents turning out to provide assistance on the ground. With a ten-degree air temperature, cold water, and waves up to 1.5 meters, Mayor Leo Pieter Stoel agreed that the chance of survival was very small.

"We have much sympathy for the missing girl's family," said Mayor Leo Pieter Stoel in a statement. "The family is in great uncertainty. The decision to stop the search is terrible for them," he said at the end of the first night of searching.