Authorities are still searching for Kyle Doan, a five-year-old who was swept from his mother’s arms on Monday amid rising flood waters in California near the two of Paso Robles.
The boy went missing on Monday, when his mother, Lindsy Doan, was driving the kindergartener to Lillian Larsen Elementary School, where Ms Doan also works as a special education teacher.
Her route took her through the intersection of San Marcos Road and Wellsona Road, near a creek swollen with flood waters, the Los Angeles Times reports. The family said the intersection wasn’t properly marked for nearby hazards, and fast-moving waters swept the Doans’ car into a nearby tree.
Brain Doan, Lindsey’s husband, told the paper his wife unbuckled their son and the pair climbed out of the sinking car.
“He was calm. He was trying to say, ‘Stay calm, Mom,” he said. “She was doing her best.”
Nearby property owners were able to throw a rope out to Ms Doan and save her, but were unable to rescue Kyle.
“I just want parents to give their own children an extra squeeze,” Ms Doan added. “We missed that opportunity with Kyle. It’s hard seeing kids going back to school today knowing Kyle was supposed to be there too. Hug your kids extra hard and just be thankful that you guys have them because in any minute, they can disappear.”
“Yesterday I got to the point where I think I ran out of tears,” she added in an interview with The Associated Press. “I just don’t know what to expect anymore. I mean, I’ve tried to do a Google search: How long can a child not eat? How long can they be in wet clothes? ... We’re worried because I don’t know if they’re going to be able to find him.”
The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office continued searching for Kyle throughout Wednesday, it wrote on its Facebook page, using aerial patrols, drones, and an underwater team as part of their investigation.
First responders said the story of Kyle Doan was a reminder of the dangers that even a few inches of running water on the road can cause.
“We use the term, ‘Turn around, don’t drown,’” Scotty Jalbert, emergency services manager for San Luis Obispo County, told the AP. “With this tragedy, when the responders got to the scene, the water was over the vehicle. Obviously, that kind of energy is going to cause a bad situation.”
The official added that those trapped in a car taking on water should attempt to get on the roof if possible.
The search was briefly called off on Monday due to extreme conditions and high water levels.
At least 18 people have died in the California storms since late December, CNN reports, including a woman found on Wednesday in a flooded car under 8 to 10 feet of water in Sonoma.