A North Carolina 1-year-old boy was found dead Monday after being swept away by rushing floodwaters from Florence when his mother lost her grip on the child.
The body of Kaiden Lee-Welch was discovered by police Monday morning after search and rescue teams spent hours searching for him overnight.
“The only thing I care about is that they found him,” Kaiden’s mother, identified as Dazia Lee by FOX 46 WJZY, Lee told FOX 46 WJZY, told the station. “That’s the only thing I care about. So now we’re waiting just to see him.”
Lee added she was grateful to those who supported her and searched for her son.
Kaiden went missing after water from the deadly storm flooded the highway his mother was driving on as she headed east to Wadesboro, North Carolina.
“I was holding his hand, trying to hold him, trying to pull him up … I couldn’t hold on anymore, and he let go,” Lee told FOX 46 WJZY.
“Our thoughts and prayers for the little boy’s family and all the search team members and law enforcement officers who helped in this matter. Very sad situation,” Union County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post.
Lee told authorities she drove around a barricade on North Carolina Highway 218 toward Wadesboro, when she encountered the swift water rising from Richardson Creek.
The water pushed her car off of the road and left her stuck in a group of trees, according to police.
Lee was able to get Kaiden out of the car, but the water caused her to lose her grip.
Lee sobbed as she described her son to the local news outlet.
“My son is 1 years old. He’s the sweetest boy you could ever have,” she said.
It was not immediately clear why Lee was traveling on the highway.
“I did everything everything I could from the moment I was pregnant to the moment I lost him. I did everything I could as a parent to save him and protect him,” she said.
Family members joined police in searching for the boy overnight. Police urged residents to avoid Highway 218 due to ongoing flooding.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said on Sunday that floodwaters were raging across the state and have created an enormous risk for residents of the state.
With Florence, which has been downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical depression, making its way across the region, flash flood warnings were in effect across much of North Carolina, as well as in northeast South Carolina and southwest Virginia, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Kaiden’s death brings the total number of those killed in the storm at least 19, with the majority of the victims in North Carolina, the youngest of which was 8 months old. Two babies and a mother were killed in separate incidents in Gaston County and Wilmington.