Local News

Crews find bodies of two children trapped in dirt near Charlotte

Posted April 8, 2013

— Rescuers on Monday recovered the bodies of two young cousins buried when a wall of dirt fell on them while they were playing in a hole at a home construction site outside of Charlotte.

The bodies of 6-year-old Chloe Jade Arwood and 7-year-old James Levi Caldwell were pulled from a 24-foot-deep pit in the town of Stanley.

"We've been working a horrific scene here," Lincoln County Emergency Services spokesman Dion Burleson told reporters gathered near the rural site on a two-lane road dotted with modular and mobile homes.

Crews had been searching for the children since Sunday afternoon, when the boy's father called 911 to report the collapse. Officials were at the scene within minutes but couldn't get to the children.

The father had been digging with a backhoe on the site earlier in the day, Sheriff David Carpenter said. He would not say what was being built or if the man was doing it alone or had professional help. He did say authorities didn't know of any permits that had been issued for the work or plans detailing the project.

Burleson described the pit as 20 feet by 20 feet with a sloped entrance leading down to the 24-foot bottom. The children were at the bottom of the pit retrieving a child-sized pickaxe when the walls fell in on them, Carpenter said.

He said his deputies would continue to investigate what happened.

Chloe Arwood Bodies of children recovered from pit collapse

In an interview with The Associated Press, Carpenter later said deputies had not yet interviewed the family living in the home but planned to follow up on neighbors' reports that the man was excavating the two-story pit to build some sort of a protective bunker.

"They were so distraught, we hope to be able to talk to them today and come up with some information on that," Carpenter said. "It's a very large hole. It would look to be something like that, but I don't know. ... We're going to find out exactly what his intentions were."

He said deputies would be speaking with county planning and zoning officials about any potential building code violations at the site.

Andrew Bryant, a planner with the Lincoln County Planning & Inspections Department, said no permits had been issued.

Neighbor Bradley Jones said the children often played in the pit when the boy's father was working there. Jones, who said he works in construction, said there was no structure to support the pit's tall dirt walls and that he questioned the man about the hole's depth.

"I told Chelsea not to go in," Jones said, referring to advice he gave his teenage daughter, who babysat the children. "It was dangerous. There was nothing to reinforce those walls."


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • atheistswillrule Apr 8, 2013

    This man's emergency bunker created this horrible emergency. When will these doom and gloom- anti big government- the sky is falling folks wake up and see that no one is trying to bomb us, enslave us, or take away guns.

  • melanie3 Apr 8, 2013

    *sigh* Local report says neighbor says the man was building some sort of emergency bunker, I hope it's not yet another anti-govt paranoid lost soul. I can't help suspect it was. I wish we could help heal those who are so lost and are preyed upon by the loud voices who are getting rich by frightening people falsely.

  • HANS FOR PRESIDENT!!!!! JK Apr 8, 2013

    Hey Nauti-dog, you may want to be careful with that mud you are flinging. It states in the article that he LET them play while he was working there, that he had no permit, had not shored up the walls, and that he is the FATHER of one of the children. So maybe you should re-read the article. he did not "loose track" of the kids. he was there with them!

    Nothing wrong with my comprehension. The article was updated with that info 56 minutes ago.....well after my original post. Furthermore, I pointed out the the ORIGINAL article did state he was the father of one and the other was believed to be a cousin. I also pointed out that if he did let them play there that he was paying a huge pircge for a huge mistake. Maybe should should compare the timelines of the article updates to my original posts before you worry too much about my mud

  • eb2cents Apr 8, 2013

    How would two little children get into a 24-ft deep pit? I just can't imagine this horrible thing happening and I'm so sorry for everyone involved. We (pre-teens) used to play on a big saw dust mound in the woods and my parents told us to stay away, it could cave in and smother us. We never listened and kept playing on it, but it could have happened. So sad for these families...

  • TruthBKnown Banned Again01 Apr 8, 2013

    Heartbreaking and tragic. Word just cannot describe this awful turn of events.

  • justiceforzahara Apr 8, 2013

    What a beautiful child!! Prayers for all involved.

  • Roland K. Apr 8, 2013

    some sort of protective bunker was being built, according to this article? Sad end to this story

  • BEACH Apr 8, 2013

    I AM SO SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS, know how u feel lost one also

  • BEACH Apr 8, 2013

    Lots of Prayers for this family.!!!!!
    My Son is with a Paramedic, he spoke in church one Sunday about holding the hand of a little girl that was dieing in a wreck and not a dry eye in church. I PRAY FOR THOSE 1ST RESPONDERS THAT HAD TO GET THOSE KIDS OUT, and all the Paramedics that responded.

  • Heelpir8 Apr 8, 2013

    A 24 foot deep pit is unlike any construction site I ever explored as a kid. Permit approval probably would have required that a safety fence be placed around the pit during any on site construction. A permanent fence is required if you want something as simple as a 5-6 foot deep in-ground pool in Chatham County.