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Mother of 1-year-old swept away during hurricane charged with involuntary manslaughter

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Authorities are charging a North Carolina mother with involuntary manslaughter in the death of her 1-year-old son, who drowned in floodwaters last month during Hurricane Florence.

Florence made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, on Sept. 14, bringing days of rain and flooding and killing at least 51 people.

During the storm Dazia Lee, 20, of Charlotte drove around barricades on state Highway 218 “that resulted in the tragic drowning death of her 1-year-old son,” Kaiden Lee-Welch, the Union County Sheriff’s Office said Monday in a statement on Facebook.

Lee also faces a misdemeanor charge of driving on a closed/unopened highway in connection with her son’s death, the statement said.

“The tragic death of this child and the circumstances surrounding this case are heartbreaking. We continue to pray for all those suffering as a result of this child’s death,” Sheriff Eddie 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.”

Deputies served Lee with a criminal summons, and she is due to appear in court on Nov. 20.

Boy swept away

Kaiden’s body was found Sept. 17.

In a Facebook post Sept. 16, the sheriff’s office said search-and-rescue teams had spent hours searching for him after he was swept away in rushing waters from Richardson Creek. It said detectives believed Kaiden and his mother had been traveling east on Highway 218 toward Wadesboro.

“The mother drove around the barricades on NC 218 and continued traveling east until her vehicle encountered rushing water flowing across the road,” it said. “Her vehicle left the roadway and came to rest amongst a group of trees. She managed to free herself and Kaiden, who was in a car seat, but lost her grip on him in the rushing water.”

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