Heartbreak

Mother shares how her 1-year-old son was ripped from her arms by ferocious Hurricane Florence floodwaters

A North Carolina mother has shared, in agonizing detail, how she lost her baby son in the unpredictable floodwaters that followed Hurricane Florence.

Dazia Lee, 20, thought the worst of the ferocious weekend weather conditions that battered her hometown of Charlotte had all but passed when she ventured out on Sunday evening with her 1-year-old son Kaiden Lee-Welch, to visit her grandmother. Although six to eight inches of water had fallen, her family wasn’t worried, because she was such an exemplary and devoted mom, ever since becoming pregnant in high school, completing her education, and working hard to support him as a single parent. “The only thing she ever wanted was to protect him,” her 18-year-old sister Kaila told The Washington Post. “As soon as he came out of the womb. . . . Whenever he was crying, she was always the first one to go. My mom or I would go and check on him, but she was always already there, feeding him.”

“I protected him from everything and everybody,” Lee said.

The drive to Wadesboro would only take an hour, the rain had eased, and the roads seemed fine. At one point, she noted some orange barrels lining the roadside, but also that cars were coming between them from the opposite direction — so she proceeded. Then she heard the sound of rushing of water.

With the car beginning to sink beneath the forceful surge, Lee describes how she managed to escape with her son, but struggled to keep hold of Kaiden, who was ripped from her strong grip. “I was holding his hand, trying to hold him, trying to pull him up,” she told Fox 46 WJZY. “I couldn’t hold on anymore and he let go.”

A passerby saved Lee and she was briefly hospitalized, but Kaiden’s fate was not confirmed until the next morning, when a county detective told her his body had been found under 15 feet of water.

In a clip from Fox46 News, shortly after receiving the news Kaiden’s body had been recovered, Lee summons incredible grace and composure to thank neighbors, rescuers and law enforcement officials for their kindness and the risks they took. “I had a call from the sheriff they found him, but unfortunately he didn’t make it,” she says through tears.

Appearing before a news conference, Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey said Lee drove around barricades set up to block the dangerous roadway, and some commenters have been quick to condemn Lee, accusing her of being neglectful and endangering her child.

“This momma has suffered tragically when she lost a child,” Sheriff Cathey said. “That is all you can say.”

Read the full story at The Washington Post and ABC11.

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