Authorities in northwestern Wisconsin have decided not to charge a man in connection with the death of his 23-month-old daughter, who wandered away from the family's home and slipped into a nearby river.

Police in Rice Lake, 95 miles northeast of St. Paul, were alerted about 9:30 p.m. Dec. 8 to the girl having been missing for about 30 minutes from a home west of the Red Cedar River. Shortly before 11 p.m., an officer using a thermal-imaging device located the girl's body in the river.

"The death … was a tragic accident, the circumstances of which were unforeseeable," read a joint statement issued Monday by Rice Lake police and the Barron County District Attorney's Office.

The statement pointed out that the girl could walk well for her age and had recently learned how to open the door.

An online obituary identified the girl as Myah Watters and described her as "a happy toddler with a sassy personality who was full of life."

According to the joint statement:

The man and his daughter lay down and went to sleep and "while her father was sleeping, [the girl] woke up … and opened the door far enough to get outside" without being heard or seen.

The father soon woke, called for the girl and saw the front door was open. He went outside trying to find her and called 911 within five minutes.

One of the volunteers who joined with emergency personnel in the search for the girl spotted "tiny footprints right next to the Red Cedar River at the end of a clear path that went to the river."

Myah was found about 30 yards downriver. Lifesaving efforts failed. An autopsy confirmed that she died from drowning.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482