Mother Says Toddler Swept Away In Seconds At Illinois River
TAHLEQUAH, Oklahoma - Heavy rains have lead to dangerously swollen rivers and lakes. One 2-year-old boy already lost his life when he drowned Saturday in the Illinois River, now his mother is blaming herself.
Sam Smith waited for a whole day, hoping her son had survived.
“He's always, always laughing,” she said. “He is so sweet. He's just full of love and joy.”
Now it's almost impossible for her to comprehend her son, Kayden Garcia, is gone.
“It just happened so quick,” she said. “It's unbelievable, it's unreal - this is something that shouldn't have happened.”
Saturday afternoon, Smith went to the Illinois River with her four young children and her aunt.
They drove down to a gravel bar just to sit and play by the river, the plan, Smith said, was to only get in the water to their knees. She said when she went to change her 8-month-old son's diaper there on the bank, she turned her back, and Kayden had disappeared.
“It was just in that split second,” she said. “I never heard anything; I never saw anything.”
Smith, 20, now believes her son was swept away by the current, but at the time she said she hoped someone had taken him because it gave her the hope that he was at least still alive.
“We held on to that until it came down to Sunday evening,” Smith said.
Sunday is when she got the news that her little boy had drowned in the Illinois River.
Now she wants her loss to be a lesson to others.
“I blame myself,” she said. “Use life jackets, whatever safety things you can grab, grab ‘em and make sure they are safetied up, because anything can happen.”
Hearing the sweet, little giggle of her son in old cell phone videos is helping getting Smith work through her grief.
“I feel him all around me. I just don't even feel like he's gone, ‘cause I can still hear him,” she said. “He was our little angel.”
And still is, she said.
The Scenic River Patrol said its investigation into what happened on the river that day is still open, in the meantime Smith's other three children have been placed in DHS custody.