The aunt of a 9-year-old New York girl who is believed to have been abducted Saturday said her niece “disappeared into thin air” in a matter of minutes.
Jene Sena, who spoke to NBC News on Monday, said Charlotte Sena was not alone for long when she disappeared. The child vanished while riding her bicycle Saturday at Moreau Lake State Park in Saratoga County.
Charlotte Sena.Courtesy Jené Sena
“She disappeared almost into thin air. I mean it was, minutes, minutes, between when she was last seen and when she wasn’t there anymore,” Sena said.
Charlotte was camping with her family and was last seen around 6:15 p.m. Saturday, New York State Police said. The child was biking around a park loop with family friends and said she wanted to do one more loop by herself, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said at a news conference.
Her parents and other campers launched a search when she didn’t return in 15 minutes. The girl’s bicycle was found on the loop, authorities said.
An Amber Alert was activated shortly after 9:30 a.m. Sunday, “for a child abduction” that occurred around 6:45 p.m. Saturday, state police said.
The state park is about 50 miles north of Albany.
Authorities believe Charlotte, who is about 4 feet, 6 inches tall and weighs 90 pounds, is “in imminent danger of serious harm and/or death,” the Amber Alert said.
About 400 certified search and rescue personnel were looking for Charlotte over a distance that spanned 46 linear miles, state police said Monday in a statement.
The search, which is being led by forest rangers with the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, also includes the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service, state police said.
Moreau Lake State Park is closed indefinitely and the investigation into the girl’s disappearance, a 24-hour operation, is classified as a missing child case, state police said.
A temporary flight restriction was issued by the Federal Aviation Administration over the state park for the safety of aircraft operations, state police said.
Charlotte’s aunt described the girl s a “quirky” and “sweet” child who is often exploring outside or looking for bugs.
Sena also told her niece to remain strong.
“Hang in there girl, you are tough. You are tough, and I know that wherever you are, you are getting through this,” she said. “I don’t doubt that she would figure out a way to escape if she were being held. I don’t doubt that she would figure out a way to somehow call for help.”
Sena pleaded with any captors to free her niece.
“Please let her come home,” she said. “Let her come home because this is heart-wrenching, this is gut-wrenching.”
Antonio Planas is a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital.