Raleigh, N.C. — After a 4-hour search Monday, dive teams found the bodies of two children who drowned in the Neuse River in Raleigh, police said.
The 10-year-old girl and 7-year-old boy, who were cousins, were fishing with family members at the Old Milburnie Dam, just north of the New Bern Avenue Bridge, on Monday afternoon.
At some point, the children went out in the water, went under and never resurfaced.
“The little boy, who I believe was 7 years old, wandered out into the water, got too deep and went under," Maj. J.C. Perry. "His 10-year-old cousin went to reach for him, went to get him and she, too, was pulled under the water."
The children's bodies were found close to the bank around 8 p.m., Perry said.
The boy's father was supervising the group, which consisted of his son and three nieces – the 10-year-old, a teenage girl and a toddler.
The father and teen girl both tried to rescue the children, but were unsuccessful. Perry said the teen was almost pulled underwater as well.
Beneath the surface, the water was moving very quickly.
"Four Raleigh police officers, upon arriving here, along with one Wake County deputy, jumped in the water and swam for a period of minutes and were exhausted," he said. "They said the current was pretty powerful."
A 911 call came in around 4 p.m., Perry said, and search teams from around the area were dispatched to scour the river near the intersection of Raleigh Beach and Allen roads.
They used dogs, divers and SONAR equipment to try and find the children, but murky water and strong currents made the operation difficult, said Jeff Hammerstein, district chief for Wake County Emergency Medical Services.
“Despite the rescue effort, every precaution has to be taken so that we don’t end up losing rescuers as well and adding to the tragedy," he said. "So, it’s long and drawn out. Once you get into the water, you can’t see where you’re looking.”
Hammerstein said rescuers have to remain focused on the search, even when the outcome is bleak.
"You need to find them – that has to happen – but it is absolutely heart-wrenching when you do," he said.
The Apex Fire Department, Wake County Sheriff's Office, Raleigh Fire Department, Rolesville Fire Department, Wake County EMS, Eastern Wake EMS and New Hope Fire Department assisted Raleigh police with the search.