Rescue crews in North Carolina have recovered the bodies of a four-year-old boy and his five-year-old sister who were swept away in their mother’s car by a flash flood earlier this week.
Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell confirmed that Abraham Martinez Jr’s body was found in a creek near Neuse River on Thursday morning, about 12 hours after rescuers recovered his sister, Alexa Castro, in shallow water 30 yards away.
Dozens of volunteers who had been searching for the missing brother and sister formed a prayer circle after learning of Alexa’s recovery.
Scroll down for video
The bodies of Alexa Castro, 5 (left), and her brother, Abraham Martinez Jr, 4 (right), have been recovered from a North Carolina creek less than 24 hours apart
The children were riding in their mother’s white Mazda (pictured) on Monday when they were caught in a flood on Monday night
A prayer circle made up of volunteers is seen on Wednesday after Alexa’s recovery
‘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,’ Bizzell told WTVD. “Everybody that I’ve talked to has been in continuous prayer for this family, these kids.’
The sheriff expressed hope that the children’s family could have some closure.
‘We can find some comfort in knowing that they’re in a better place today than we are,’ Bizzell added.
After the discovery of Alexa’s body at around 4.30pm on Wednesday, emergency responders had been scouring the area by sea, land and air in search of her brother.
‘My only duty right now is to find my son,’ Abraham Martinez Sr said in Spanish during an interview with The News & Observer on Wednesday. ‘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.’
Nancy Martinez, a cousin of Abraham’s father, said it was a difficult day for the family.
‘We’re still hoping and praying we find Abraham before the night is over,’ Martinez said.
Loved ones told WRAL that Alexa and Abraham’s mother, Vanessa Castro, has been discharged from the hospital and is doing well physically.
The woman and her two children were traveling along Galilee Road in Smithfield, outside Raleigh, on Monday night when rising water flooded the road and swept the vehicle away.
Recordings of the mother’s 911 calls from that night obtained by News & Observer captured her growing panic and anguish.
‘It’s up to my knees. It’s up to my knees!’ Castro is heard on the tape telling an emergency dispatcher. ‘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 dispatcher instructed Castro to climb with her children onto the roof of the car and promised her that help was on the way.
The mom-of-two said she was able to get her son onto the roof, but her daughter was still stuck inside.
Flood waters then swept the car away, leaving the mother clinging to a tree.
‘She’s gone,’ Castro screamed on the call, referring to her daughter. ‘She’s gone. She’s in the water. She was so scared she wouldn’t let go.’
Rescuers were able to initially pull the mother and son from the raging torrent but the treacherous conditions overturned the rescue boats and Abraham slipped the grasp of a firefighter and was lost again.
Four swiftwater rescue boats capsized in the extreme currents, authorities said, meaning first responders also had to be saved from the perilous waters.
‘The water was so raging the other night, it was throwing the boats up against the trees,’ Sheriff Bizzell said. ‘We’re fortunate that we had no loss of life for first responders the other night.’
The mother’s white Mazda has since been recovered but there was no one inside.
Rescue crews had been searching for the missing children for the past two days
Rescue crews were able to initially pull the mother and Abraham from the water but the treacherous conditions overturned the rescue boats and the child was lost again
The mother, Vanessa Castro, and two emergency responders were taken to hospital
Smithfield, Wilson Mills, Princeton, and Four Oaks fire departments all responded to a 911 call from the mother at around 11.30pm on Monday, according to Johnston County emergency officials.
Smithfield Fire Chief John Blanton said at a press conference Tuesday rescue crews managed to get the mother and one child into recovery boats on the way to safety when the boats capsized.
The rescue teams grabbed the mother and were able to get to safety, but the child slipped away in the fast-moving water, he said.
‘They got into the water and they were able to rescue the child, a child and the mother,’ Blanton said.
‘The water was so turbulent that the boat capsized and they lost the child.’
The 5-year-old girl and her younger brother were traveling with their mother along Galilee Road in Smithfield, outside Raleigh, Monday night when rising water flooded the road and swept the vehicle away. The car was recovered Tuesday but the children were not inside (above)
Rescue teams search for the missing children after the extreme weather swept the car off the road
Four boats were lost in the rescue mission to save the children, he added.
Two firefighters suffered minor injuries when they were dragged at least a mile down the river by the current.
‘The amount of water and the current is so strong, it overcomes you when you start to turn a boat, and you’re in debris and tress and such, so they were fighting against that as well, so they’d hit a tree, they’d flip over. That’s basically what they were in last night,’ Blanton said Tuesday.
The mother and two first responders were taken to a local hospital for treatment.
Family friends told WRAL.com the mom has since been discharged from hospital.
Smithfield Fire Chief John Blanton Tuesday at the scene. Four swiftwater rescue boats capsized in the extreme currents, authorities said, meaning first responders also had to be saved from the perilous waters
The aftermath of the flooding on the road. More than seven inches of rain fell in Smithfield overnight Monday, causing numerous roads to flood in the area, emergency officials said
On Tuesday morning, search crews found the family’s car but there was no one inside.
A helicopter, heavy-duty all-terrain vehicles and K-9s all joined in Tuesday’s search but did not locate the missing children.
Relatives of the missing children were also seen pacing the area, looking for signs of their loved ones.
Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell said the search for the young children had been suspended for the night at around 5 p.m. Tuesday and would resume at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday.
More than seven inches of rain fell in Smithfield overnight Monday, causing numerous roads to flood in the area, emergency officials said.
An elderly couple also had to be rescued when the extreme weather caused their car to overturn on the nearby I-95.
Relatives of the missing children were also seen pacing the area Tuesday, looking for signs of their loved ones
A helicopter, heavy-duty all-terrain vehicles and K-9s all joined in Tuesday’s search but did not locate the missing children