"I was holding his hand, trying to hold him, trying to pull him up. And it got to the point I couldn’t hold on anymore—and he let go," Dazia Lee told FOX 46 about her last moments with her son before he was tragically swept away.
The 14-month-old, Kaiden Lee Welch, is one of the latest victims tragically taken by Hurricane Florence, which touched down in the Carolinas last Friday. As we currently know, at least 32 people have died in storm-related incidents.
Dazia was driving in New Salem, North Carolina, on her way from Charlotte to Wadesboro on Sunday night when her car was rapidly swept off the road by flood water, across a field and into a tree.
Authorities said they put barricades on N.C. 218, one of 28 roads in the county that was deemed dangerous and blocked off on Sunday, so either the mom drove around the barricades while traveling east or someone else moved them. They said Dazia tried to continue driving after coming up to a bridge that crossed Richardson Creek despite the road being partially submerged.
Dazia insisted she saw other people safely crossing the road and told WCNC, "I want to know whoever moved the barricades—I lost my son because of this."
Soon after, the car was overwhelmed by powerful moving water from the creek that threw the car into a group of trees. While the Hyundai quickly flooded, already submerging most of the car, Dazia managed to get out of the car and free Kaiden from his car seat. But she lost her grip on Kaiden, and the rushing water took her child away.
Emergency responders were called around 8:30 p.m. that night. While the mom was rescued, multiple state and local law enforcement agencies and a dive team deployed by FEMA searched the water until past midnight and couldn't find Kaiden. They resumed searching at 7:30 a.m. on Monday, when there was more light to find that the water had receded considerably and the child's body was wedged between the bumper of the car and the tree.
Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey is reminding people to take warnings and flooded roads seriously, telling the Charlotte Observer, "Driving through water where the roads are closed is dangerous for anybody. High water is high water."