- Associated Press - Thursday, March 12, 2020

LEON, Kan. (AP) - Crews are searching for the body of a 2-year-old southeast Kansas girl after her father drove them both off a 30-foot embankment and into a river, authorities said Thursday.

Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet said the father drove into the Walnut River near Leon Wednesday evening after officers tried to take his daughter from him because he had been drinking. The father’s body was later recovered from his truck, but the girl’s body likely was swept away immediately. The river was running hard because of recent rains, Herzet said.

Leon officers began looking for the man, who was known to police, Wednesday after the girl’s mother reported he had the girl with him when he bought alcohol and had refused to take the child home. The couple was not married.

Officers located the man in his truck in woods near the river. Their initial conversations were peaceful but when officers said they had to take the child from him because he was drinking and didn’t have a car seat for her, the father drove into the river, Herzet said.

“It looks like it was very intentional,” the sheriff said.

The truck landed on its top and the man’s body was found pinned inside the vehicle, the sheriff said.

Dogs, rescue boats, heavy equipment and a helicopter have been used in the search. State, county and local law enforcement and rescue personnel are involved in the search.

Leon is a town of about 500 people about 30 miles (50 kilometers) east of Wichita.

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