A Kansas mom who went to work as usual Wednesday morning soon started receiving concerning updates from locals that her boyfriend had been seen buying liquor at a grocery store, their 2-year-old daughter in tow. Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet tells NBC News that the unidentified woman called her boyfriend—IDed by the sheriff's office as 44-year-old Christopher Johnson, per KWCH—and begged him to bring the little girl home. When Johnson insisted he was fine, Herzet says, the mother contacted the Leon Police Department, and police found him close to 7pm inside his pickup truck near the Walnut River, his daughter on his lap instead of secured in a car seat. Still, Herzet says it initially appeared the incident would end quietly, as officers told Johnson he should hand the toddler over due to his apparent intoxicated state.
That's when panic set in, per Herzet, with Johnson putting his foot to the gas and driving straight into the river. "Alcohol was involved, I think it’s fair to say," the sheriff says, per NBC. A 90-minute recovery effort ensued, and around 10pm rescuers found Johnson trapped inside the submerged car, dead. The glass in one of the back windows was broken, however, and the little girl was nowhere to be found. A trio of boats and a canine rescue group were dispatched to search for the toddler, and the search continues. "It's tragic for this community of Leon for ... they know the mother, they know the father," Herzet says, adding Johnson exhibited "bad judgment." "The mother grew up in this town. And they had this child together. It's a sad day in Butler County." (Read more car accident stories.)