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5 confirmed dead in Upper Makefield flood; toddler, baby still missing


The death toll Sunday night stood at five in the wake of Saturday's sudden, violent flash flood in Upper Makefield near Washington Crossing.

“With these 5 deaths, this is a mass casualty incident the likes of which we have not seen before,” read a statement from the Upper Makefield Township Police Department.

Crews were expected to resume the search Monday morning for a 2-year-old and a 9-month-old. The children’s mother is one of those who died, said Bucks County Coroner Meredith Buck.

The family also included the children’s 4-year-old brother, their father and their grandmother, all of whom survived, according to a statement from Upper Makefield Township Police.

The group was visiting Bucks County from Charleston S.C. and was headed to a barbecue when a torrent of water from the rain-swollen Houghs Creek hit their vehicles, rendering them in operable. All six exited their two vehicles in an attempt to reach safety, Buck said.

Four additional victims riding in three other cars were also swept away by the flood and later found dead.

Buck said it appeared that two of the vehicles held couples. In the first vehicle, the man’s body was recovered Saturday night and the woman’s body was found late Sunday morning. In the second vehicle, the man was found and taken to the hospital but the woman died in the water.

The third vehicle contained a woman and a dog. The woman’s body was recovered Saturday night, said Buck, who added the dog survived.

“This has been unbelievably devastating to all the families involved, all of our first responders, and to our community as a whole. We are all in grieving over the loss of life we have seen,” read the Upper Makefield police statement.

No names were released on Sunday.

The worst of the flooding happened at the creek, inland from the canal, along Route 532 near Stonebridge Crossing Road. That roadway intersects with Route 532 between Aqueduct and Wrightstown roads.

Rescue teams searched along Houghs Creek and both sides of the Delaware Canal. They often did so in heavy rain as intermittent downpours continued throughout Sunday.

“However, our commitment to finding the two children who are still missing is unwavering as we will do all that we can to bring them home to their loved ones,” said the police statement.

Along the canal Sunday morning, silence and grief pervaded the atmosphere as weary citizens of Upper Makefield and Washington Crossing went about the business of cleaning up the debris on their property from the storm.

Parents took their young ones out in ponchos and rain boots to jump in the puddles and to try to distract them from the emotional and physical damage the flood exacted on their community.

Drivers did their best to navigate the roads, many of which were blocked off or impaired. Large piles of rocks, mud, tree branches and trunks piled up along numerous roads, including Washington Crossing Road and Mount Eyre Road.

River Road by Francisco’s On the River was closed Sunday and the same road was also closed between Route 532 and Mount Eyre Road. Taylorsville Road was also reportedly closed from Route 532 to Route 295.

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro visited the scene on Sunday afternoon to thank the first responders and promise that his administration would do what it could to aid the community recovery effort.

He also said his prayers were with those awaiting word about their loved ones as well as those who lost friends, neighbors and family members.

The statement from the Upper Makefield Township Police Department shared that members of the family from South Carolina were grateful for the outpouring of love and support they’ve been shown.

“(D)espite the devastating grief they are enduring, they hear your prayers, your well wishes and they wanted us to let all of you know how overwhelmed they are by your kindness,” the statement read.

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