A North Carolina mom whose 1-year-old son drowned in Hurricane Florence’s storm surge has been charged with involuntary manslaughter after authorities say she ignored a road blockage and was subsequently swept away by the water, PEOPLE confirms.
Dazia Ideah Lee, 20, told The Washington Post that she lost grip of son Kaiden Lee-Welch the night of Sept. 16 as the rushing waters from Richardson Creek overtook the 2010 Hyundai Elantra they were in, pushing it off the road.
The boy’s body was found the next day by search and rescue teams, 15 feet under water.
According to the Post, Lee and Kaiden had set out to visit her grandmother in Wadesboro, about an hour away from her home in the Charlotte area. But Lee said she was unaware of Florence’s danger during their trip since it seemed the worst of the storm had already passed through.
She explained to the paper that she drove around police barrels on Highway 218 after seeing other cars going in the opposite direction — but was met on that road with the deadly flood that resulted in her son’s drowning.
It was her decision to ignore the barricades that led to her criminal charges, authorities said this week.
The Union County Sheriff’s Office announced on Monday that Lee had been charged with involuntary manslaughter as well as a misdemeanor charge of driving on a closed/unopened highway.
She was served a criminal summons and is due in court on Nov. 20.
Court officials say she does not have an attorney on record and PEOPLE’s efforts to reach her on Thursday were unsuccessful.
“The tragic death of this child and the circumstances surrounding this case are heartbreaking,” said Sheriff Eddie Cathey in a statement to the office’s Facebook page.
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“We continue to pray for all those suffering as a result of this child’s death,” Cathey said. “However, after a very thorough investigation and taking all facts into consideration and applying the law, we feel that these charges are appropriate.”
After Kaiden was pulled away from her in the water but before his body was found, Lee told reporters, “I did everything I could,” according to the Post.
“From the moment I was pregnant until the moment I lost him, I did everything I could to save and protect him,” she said.