The search brought out dozens of emergency responders, family and friends, eventually resulting in successfully locating Flores around 10:30 a.m. Thursday in the Pine Log Wildlife Management Area.
Having gone missing Wednesday night while caring for her horse at the family's Rydal home, Flores' case did not match criteria for an Amber Alert, which requires confirmation of an abduction. Nonetheless, authorities and volunteers quickly amassed a search party to begin searching the streets and combing the woods near the residence.
Alongside family and friends canvassing the Rydal area of East Valley Road were agents from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Bartow County Sheriff's Office, Bartow County Fire and Rescue, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Georgia State Probation, Bartow County Emergency Management Agency and aerial support from the Georgia State Patrol.
"We were contacted a little before midnight about a girl who had gone to take her horse from the barn to the pasture and didn't return to the house and came up missing," said Conservation Sgt. Mike Barr of the DNR. "We put on a fairly extensive search and rescue, including arranging for the state patrol to bring their helicopter, and they did a grid search with the heat seeking FLEER unit and didn't come up with anything."
Thursday morning after search parties set out again, a DNR agent found tracks believed to be Flores', which led to her safe recovery. After locating her in a field within the WMA off of East Valley Road, Barr spoke with Flores to make sure she was OK.
"It all turned out good. I specifically asked her myself how she got out there -- we were thinking the worst may have happened, but she just said she needed some alone time, needed to get away for a while," Barr said.
Barr commended the entire search force for their work in locating the girl, while he credited the DNR wilderness investigation training for the agent's ability to successfully track Flores' path. The breakthrough came, Barr said, when he met with the girl's parents to determine what shoes she was wearing when she disappeared.
"That was one big helpful event. This morning at daylight, I was back out there and met with the family and specifically got them to show me the type of shoe she had on and then the size of shoe she was currently wearing," Barr said. "That was incredibly helpful ... our officers are trained on catching partial tracks. But you've got to know where to start, and the tread design on the soles of the shoe, the track size and the stride goes with the size person, in this case a juvenile, led us to believe this was the correct track."
The method used to find Flores begins with locating two footprints, identifying the stride, creating a "tracking stick" to measure out the next stride and searching within that arch for the next track.
"You can literally just go step by step where a person has been if you're properly trained in using that technique to get where they're located. It's not a fast technique, it takes some time, but it works," Barr said.
Sgt. Jonathan Rogers of the BCSO estimated the search team at between 20 and 30 in the pre-dawn hours swelled to nearly 100 searchers this morning for the continued effort. Rogers reported Flores was found "alive and well" and that no ill-intent or mischief was suspected in her disappearance. He added that crews were glad to see a positive outcome.
Often called in for searches involving children and the elderly, Barr too was pleased with the success of the multi-agency effort.
"A missing 12-year-old that stays out all night is always a concern," Barr said. "Sometimes with Alzheimer's patients they're not found alive or not found in time or children that are missing can be exploited in different manners. So, it's always nice to bring a search and rescue to a close that is beneficial to everybody. It took a lot of efforts on all party's parts, but nonetheless, we're thankful it turned out the way it did."