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Search for flood victims Mattie, Conrad Sheils continues in Upper Makefield; Other victims identified


Better weather conditions Monday in Upper Makefield allowed officials to mobilize a massive search along Houghs Creek and the Delaware Canal for a missing toddler and her 9-month-old brother, who were washed away in Saturday’s flash flood.

But as of 5 p.m.  Monday, Matilda (Mattie) Sheils, 2, and Conrad Sheils, 9 months, of South Carolina, were still missing.

The bodies of five people have been recovered, all of them motorists whose vehicles were rendered inoperable by a sudden, violent wall of water as they travelled near Houghs Creek in the vicinity of Washington Crossing.

Bucks County Coroner Meredith Buck on Monday afternoon identified them as Enzo Depiero, 78, and Linda Depiero, 74, of Newtown Township; Yuko Love, 64, of Newtown Township; Susan Barnhart, 53, of Titusville N.J.; and Katheryn Seley, 32, of Charleston S.C.  Buck said the cause of death was accidental drowning in all cases, and noted that Love also sustained multiple injuries. All exited their vehicles in an effort to reach safety.

Seley is the mother of the still-missing children. Father Jim Sheils, their 4-year-old son, and Seley's mother all survived. The Sheils family was visiting Bucks County from Charleston S.C. and headed to a barbecue.

“Every effort will be made to bring these beautiful children home to their families,” the Upper Makefield Township Police Department said in a morning Facebook post.

That, the statement said, meant teams on foot, drones, divers and sonar technology were all being brought to the search.

“(W)e have been able to triple the assets deployed as our search...widens,” the statement said.

At an afternoon press conference, Upper Makefield Fire Co. Chief Tim Brewer said Monday's efforts centered on a 40-acre area  south of Route 532. Crews searched through spill piles that lined the creek and canal with the help of both cadaver and rescue dogs.

Brewer stressed that the motorists did not get stuck because they drove into the water.

"The water found them," he said.

Beyond the Sheils family, four additional victims were riding in three other cars. In the first car, the Depieros, believed to be a husband and wife,  were found dead on Saturday evening and Sunday morning, respectively.

There were also two passengers in the second car. Love died in the water but a man who was in the car with her was found and taken to the hospital. 

The third car contained Barnhart and a dog. Barnhart's body was recovered Saturday night, said Buck, who added the dog survived.

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.

Speaking at Monday afternoon's press conference, Jim Sheils' brother-in-law Scott Ellis called it a "horrific tragedy" and that the family was "utterly devastated."

He expressed gratitude to the rescuers for their dedication to the search and credited them with "compassion, kindness and bravery."

"We're thankful that they were able to save so many others," Ellis said.

Brewer, likewise, called the strength of the Sheils family an inspiration to the rescuers and first responders during a difficult, exhausting search.

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