ORANGEBURG COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Two children's bodies have been recovered from a submerged vehicle in the Edisto River and their mother has been arrested.
The South Carolina Highway Patrol was called to the Shillings Bridge boat ramp for a report of a vehicle in the water around 6 a.m. Monday. Once on the scene, troopers, believing it was more than an accident, called the Orangeburg County Sheriff's Department.
Orangeburg County dive team members discovered the bodies of a 1-year-old and 2-year old boy inside the Green Dodge Intrepid at 6:40 a.m. The toddler's bodies were still strapped in their child restraint seats when they were recovered.
Ramona Millhouse watched as rescue crews worked to recover the boys, and pull the car out of the water.
"One of them carried a little boy off to the ambulance and then there was a girl working with them and she took the other little boy off the stretcher and she carried him to the ambulance," said Millhouse.
According to Orangeburg County Sheriff Larry Williams, the boys' 29-year-old mother walked almost a mile before calling for help. Williams said she described the incident as an "accident."
Authorities said the mother has one other child and is from Orangeburg County. Her name has not been released. She is charged with leaving the scene of an accident. Williams said there's a possibility this was not an accident.
"It's a possibility, of course, with her leaving the scene of the accident, and we're going to further interview her today, and that's a possibility," said Williams.
Williams says Troopers did not find any evidence that the car was in an accident. The only explanation, according to Williams, is that the car went into the river at a nearby boat landing.
"She left the location," said Williams. "She walked away from the vehicle, maybe three-fourths of a mile away, of course, where she had contacted someone to call law enforcement to report that she had been involved in an accident."
"We definitely didn't have any evidence of a vehicle accident," added the sheriff.
A witness said she overheard investigators saying the ignition was left on when they opened the car door in the water.
Orangeburg sheriff's deputies had Shillings Bridge Road closed down for most of the morning while trying to retrieve the vehicle from the river.
The names of the children have not been released.
An autopsy will be conducted on the bodies to determine exact cause of death.
The sheriff did not say whether the investigation is to a point where investigators can say for sure, exactly how, or who put the car in the river.