One of the children was found in an initial rescue attempt, but the rescue boat capsized before they could be brought to safety

By Rachel DeSantis
September 02, 2020 02:31 PM
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Missing Children NC flooding
Alexa, 5, is missing in North Carolina

Authorities in North Carolina have been on the hunt for a 5-year-old girl and her 4-year-old brother who were swept away by a flash flood while driving with their mother.

The siblings and their mom were driving in Smithfield late Monday night when a flash flood caused a partial road collapse, and their vehicle was swept away, Smithfield Fire Chief John Blanton said at a press conference on Tuesday, according to WTVD.

Once rescue crews arrived, they were able to reach the mother and one of the children, and placed them in a recovery boat to get them to safety, Blanton said.

However, the recovery boat capsized, during which time the child slipped away.

“The water was so turbulent that the boat capsized and they lost the child. They were able to regain the mother. During the efforts to recover or find the children, they lost four boats,” Blanton said, according to WTVD. “This morning, search efforts have gone out. They have located the vehicle and there’s no one in the vehicle, so they’re continuing the search this morning.”

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Blanton said the mother was successfully removed from the water and taken to the hospital, and all other emergency personnel responding to the scene were safely rescued as well.

Only the children — the older of whom is reportedly named Alexa — remained missing.

Local authorities with the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office worked all day Tuesday and into Wednesday morning to search for the children using K-9s, helicopters and more, WTVD reported.

Blanton said that the operation is still a search and rescue mission, but may eventually switch to a recovery mission, NBC affiliate WRAL reported.

Family friends told the outlet that the children’s mother has been released from the hospital.

The Johnston County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.