An Australian mother is being hailed as a hero after she died trying to help her children escape drowning in a submerged car.
"I have no doubt whatsoever that woman is a hero," Tweed-Byron Police Superintendent Wayne Starling told The Daily Telegraph. "She died trying to save her children. I have no doubt she would still be alive today if she wasn't trying to save them."
The tragedy happened in New South Wales, Australia, on April 3, reports The Daily Telegraph. Stephanie King, a 43-year-old mother of three, was driving her kids to help clean up after a cyclone when they entered a flooded road, according to 7 News Sydney. That's when the car skidded off the slippery street and plunged into a muddy river, causing the family to become trapped inside the vehicle.
"They didn't have a chance," said bystander Thomas Grinham, who dived into the water to find the car, according to The Courier-Mail. "It was just too deep, too cold. As soon as you opened your eyes underwater it was horrendous. It was freezing cold."
Grinham said that he was passing by in a car with his father and sister just after the van had gone under. That's when they saw 8-year-old Chloe May, who had made it out of the car and onto dry land, screaming for help. They did everything they could to find the traumatized girl's family, but he said that they could not dive down far enough to get to the car.
"It was hard to keep swimming against the current," he explained. "You had to keep coming up. At first we were going feet first, just pushing down to try and see if we could feel it with our feet. I tried a couple of times. But the bubbles, they trailed away. They just got less and less."
It wasn't until a day later that rescue crews were able to find the sunken car and pull it out of the water. They found King's body inside the van, holding one of her two children.
"I have no words," family friend Alicia Morgan told The Daily Telegraph. "Steph was the sort of mother who would do anything for the kids, she was such a community-minded person, she would get in there and help anyone who needed a hand."
City council members said that the road conditions were dangerous but that they did not believe that it had been closed down, which was why the mom had entered it in the first place.