Late Monday, not long before midnight, Vanessa Castro was driving in Smithfield, North Carolina, with her 5-year-old daughter, Alexa, and 4-year-old son, Abraham, in the car with her.
As she drove along Galilee Road, the rising water washed out part of the road and tugged the car into the creek.
She called 911, and they instructed her to open windows, unlock doors and place her children on the roof of the car. She managed to get her son on the roof, but her daughter was stuck inside.
“It’s up to my knees,” she told emergency dispatchers. “It’s up to my knees. It’s up to my knees! Baby, we’re not gonna die. Oh, my goodness. I don’t think I can get my kids out because I can’t see anything. I can’t see anything.”
The waters pushed the car downstream, sending the three of them into the flood. When help arrived, at one point, Castro and her son were found and hauled into a rescue boat — but the waters were turbulent and the boat, rescuers, Castro and her son were tossed back into the water.
“One of the firemen had the little boy,” Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell said, according to The News & Observer in Charlotte, “and because of the raging water he got away.”
Eventually, Castro was rescued again, and even one of the first responders was lost from sight for some time. Four boats capsized before they were able to get to safety, their progress impeded by the visibility conditions and debris.
A local church arranged a place of prayer Wednesday near the Neuse River, which was attended by local community and church members.
On Wednesday, little Alexa’s body was found.
“My only duty right now is to find my son,” said Abraham Martínez in Spanish to me tonight. His two children who were swept away in a flooded Neuse river in Smithfield on Monday night.
— Aaron Sánchez-Guerra (@aaronsguerra) September 3, 2020
“My only duty right now is to find my son,” 27-year-old Abraham Martinez told The News & Observer. “The Lord gave me back my daughter, and now just my son is missing. Even though she isn’t my biological daughter, I love her the same, and it hurts me a whole lot.”
“For us to find a body is a success but it is not the success we were hoping for,” Bizzell told WTVD-TV.
On Thursday morning, Abraham’s body was found.
“We were hoping to have better news, but at least the family will be able to put some of a closure,” Bizzell said in an update. “I can’t imagine either the emotions of the family, of the heartbreak, the hurt, the devastation. It’s been tough on myself; it’s been tough on the deputies.”
“Everybody that I’ve talked to has been in continuous prayer for this family, and these kids.”
“We can find some comfort in knowing that they’re in a better of a place today than we are.”
The community jumped in with donations, volunteers and prayers.
This has been a devastating time for the family, and they will need continued support as they try to press forward after such a loss.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.