‘I’m gonna be out here as long as she’s out here’: Family waits for answers in river search, IDs missing 9-year-old

Officials: Search for girl who went underwater in Rock River now a recovery mission

JANESVILLE, Wis. — A search for a young girl who went underwater in Janesville on Thursday night has become a recovery operation, officials said Friday.

Rock County Sheriff Troy Knudson told News 3 Now that the Rock River current was moving more quickly than the team would like for the search and crews were working to slow it down to safely send in divers to make a recovery. He also said the search was expanding downriver.

9-year-old Madison Billups went missing in the river near the Monterey Dam on Thursday night, and crews used boats with sonar and infrared night vision in the search that began at about 7 p.m. and went into the early morning hours before pausing because of limitations in the darkness, police said.

Crews picked up their search at about 8 a.m. Friday. Rescuers shut down the Indian Ford Dam and put obstacles in the river.

Janesville Deputy Police Chief Terry Sheridan said the current in that particular area is fast and dangerous.

“From what I understand, even though the river is not that deep, the current is strong enough it can pin a person down from swimming right now,” he said.

Rock River Search 9yo Girl Missing June 26 1280

According to Sheridan, Billups and a boy had gone in the water last night, when a man and woman nearby fishing saw them struggling. The woman was able to get the boy out of the water but Billups got lost in the river.

“This lady is a hero but it’s going to be difficult for her, too,” he said. “She did what she could. She should be totally praised for her actions.”

Sheridan said he’s sending prayers to both the woman and Billups’ family members, who Tyrell Seals, the girl’s uncle, said came from different states to be present for the search.

“Whichever way it go, my whole family out here. She feel our energy. She know we here, she know we ain’t leaving at all,” Seals said. “My niece out here. I’m gonna be out here as long as she’s out here.”

Madison Billups (1)

Madison Billups

Seals said his niece was like a child to him before he had his own, and describes her as “a bright individual — smart, super smart.”

“She can teach you how to work a computer, teach you anything and everything. A real bright person, that’s my niece,” he said. “If anybody knows anything, just let us know, so we can go get her. I want to bring my baby back home.”