A 12-year-old girl died on Saturday following her birthday celebration with family after the car she was traveling in was swept off of a roadway in St. Louis, Missouri.
The devastating news of Aaleya Carter’s death was confirmed by a Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) spokesperson after her body was recovered on Saturday afternoon.
The family was traveling home around 1:30 a.m on Interstate 70 near Airflight Drive when they came across floodwaters. Cpl. Juston Wheetley told KTVI the car attempted a U-turn to avoid the flooded roadway when Aaleya was swept into a concrete drain opening.
“She was fatally injured as a result of being swept in the drain,” Wheetley said. “This was a fluke thing. This is not something we’ve seen before.”
“She was out this morning with her mom and brother, and sister enjoying her birthday,” Tanya Carter, Aaleya’s grandmother told KTVI.
Carter explained that Aaleya just turned 12 on Wednesday and was celebrating with her mother, brother and sister. Aaleya’s mother and siblings were able to evacuate safely, but they are undoubtedly experiencing unfathomable grief.
“They had just left the movies and the water picked up the car and pushed it to the side to where it was hard for them to get out, and she didn’t know there was a drain up under the drain, and she went up under the drain,” Carter continued.
A crowd of volunteers gathered throughout Saturday to help Aaleya’s family, but a recovery mission proved to present challenges due to the drain system. Missouri congresswoman Cori Bush was among the volunteers. Wheeler said eyewitnesses observed some of the floodwaters rose as high as 2 feet.
“It’s not safe if you don’t have the proper equipment to enter these tunnels,” said Missouri State Highway Patrol Corporal Juston Wheetley. “We don’t know what’s in there. And without understanding the lay out and what dangers lay ahead, it’s not worth the risk of life.”
Aaleya’s family went through several emotional stages after they received a report that she was spotted alive in the nearby airport’s Southwest Airlines terminal, but the claim proved to be false.
On Saturday Aaleya’s family returned to the location where she was discovered and held vigil with the release of silver and pink balloons, two of her favorite colors.
The girl’s family returned to the scene where her body was found on Sunday to pay tribute to her with the release of silver and pink balloons, her favorite colors.
“I don’t even know. I’m lost. I don’t know what to say,” her mother Bridgette Carter told KMOV.
“She loved her momma beyond measures, Aaleya’s aunt Tracy Dean told the outlet. “So it’s going to be hard. It’s hard not only for her but her siblings and her family. So we just want everybody to pray.”