Mom Whose Baby Drowned in Hurricane Charged With Manslaughter

North Carolina authorities say Dazia Lee ignored barricades on closed road after Hurricane Florence
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 31, 2018 8:07 AM CDT
Mom Whose Baby Drowned in Hurricane Charged With Manslaughter
Barricades block a flooded road near Georgetown, SC, on Sept. 24, 2018.   (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)

"I did everything I could as a parent to save him and protect him." That was the initial emotional statement given by Dazia Lee to the media after her 1-year-old son, Kaiden Lee-Welch, drowned while the two tried to flee surging North Carolina floodwaters in the wake of Hurricane Florence last month. Now, however, some of the blame for her toddler's death is being placed squarely on her: The 20-year-old has been hit with involuntary manslaughter charges in Union County, the New York Times reports. "We feel these charges are appropriate," Sheriff Eddie Cathey says in a statement on Kaiden's "heartbreaking" death, as Lee had chosen on Sept. 16 to circumvent a barricade erected to keep people off a flooded road; for that transgression, she received a misdemeanor charge.

Lee—who told reporters at the time she didn't know the area she was driving in well, per CBS News—said that she saw barricades near a local road, but not blocking it, and that other people seemed to be driving across a nearby bridge just fine, the Charlotte Observer notes. Cathey insists the barricades were definitely up, and that "whether someone else moved those barricades and she drove around 'em, I can't say." Her car was soon pushed off the road by floodwaters, and although she was able to get herself and Kaiden out of the car, he was ripped from her hands by the water. After an all-night search, his body was found the next day, stuck between a tree and a car. If convicted, Lee could face up to 16 months in prison. She's due in court on Nov. 20. (Two mental health patients also drowned in Florence's floods.)

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