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News / Nation & World

Police narrow search for infant lost in flash flood, after 2-year-old sister’s body found

By Associated Press
Published: July 23, 2023, 12:46pm

WASHINGTON CROSSING, Pa.  — Search teams in Pennsylvania were focusing on one underwater area Sunday as they try to find a 9-month-old boy swept away in a flash flood, hours after authorities confirmed that the body of his 2-year-old sister was recovered from the Delaware River.

Upper Makefield Township police said in a Facebook post Sunday that although 2-year-old Matilda Sheils had been “brought home to her loving family” after her body was recovered Friday, officials are “devastated that we have not yet been able to reunite Conrad with his sister and family.”

Hundreds of people including search and rescue teams, marine units and police and fire personnel have scoured the area with the aid of “K-9s, sonar, drones, boats, divers, heavy equipment, GPS mapping and air units,” police said, adding that they were now at the point that “our search will be dependent upon the conditions of the river.”

Authorities have centered their efforts on an area near where the creek that flooded enters the Delaware River, and plan to use divers there when possible and also put K-9 units on islands in the river as water levels recede. Agencies to the south will also be checking their sections along the river, police said.

“We have no words to describe how we are feeling except truly heartbroken. But, the pain we feel is nowhere near what these families have been through,” the police statement said, vowing to the missing boy “we will never stop until we can bring you home.”

The girl’s body was found early Friday evening in the river near a Philadelphia wastewater treatment plant about 30 miles (50 kilometers) from where she was carried away, authorities said Friday night. The Philadelphia medical examiner on Saturday completed an investigation and “ruled that Matilda Sheils’ cause of death was drowning and the manner is accidental,” a spokesperson for the office said.

The family from Charleston, South Carolina, was visiting relatives and friends in the area and were on their way to a barbecue on the evening of July 15 when their vehicle was hit by a “wall of water” from Houghs Creek, according to Upper Makefield Fire Chief Tim Brewer.

The children’s father, Jim Sheils, grabbed the the couple’s 4-year-old son, while their mother, 32-year-old Katie Seley, and a grandmother grabbed the other children, Brewer said. Sheils and the older boy made it to safety, but Seley and the grandmother were swept away along with the younger children. The grandmother survived but the mother perished.

Four other people drowned in the suburb about 35 miles (60 kilometers) north of Philadelphia, according to the Bucks County Coroner’s office: Enzo Depiero, 78, and Linda Depiero, 74, of Newtown; Yuko Love, 64, of Newtown; and Susan Barnhart, 53, of Titusville, New Jersey.