Police recover auto of family feared dead in Tweed River

Emergency services at the Tweed River in Tumbulgum on Monday afternoon

The mother who died when her auto plunged into the Tweed River was trying to save her children trapped in the sinking vehicle, it has been revealed.

Stephanie King, 43, was found with one of her children in her arms when police divers pulled her body and the bodies of her two children Jacob, 7, and Ella-Jane, 11, from the sunken wreckage of their auto in the Tweed River on Tuesday.

An eight-year-old girl was also in the auto but managed to escape and alert a passerby.

Police confirmed the bodies of the three have been found in a submerged vehicle, about 5m from the riverbank.

Witness Peter Taylor said: 'A little girl's run down the road and she's said her family's gone into the river.

One of her daughters escaped and raised the alarm.

The child who managed to escape from the vehicle was taken to Tweed Heads District Hospital with cuts and lacerations to her lower legs as well as neck pain.

"Steph was the sort of mother who would do anything for the kids, she was such a community-minded person, she would get in there and help anyone who needed a hand", she said.

A SEARCH and rescue operation is underway at near Tweed Heads for a vehicle submerged in flood waters earlier this afternoon. "Dad and two other boys just jumped into the water and couldn't dive deep enough", Sophie said. But sadly her family could not be saved as she watched them get washed away.

"She was screaming [that] her mum, little sister and older brother had gone into the river in the car" he told the Seven Network yesterday.

Matthew Grinham, a former policeman, was driving by the river, which was in flood, when another witness told him what had happened. "At first we were going feet first, just pushing down to try and see if we could feel it with our feet".

"Then we tried diving a couple of times but the water was so brown and cold. the flood run off is freezing down there".

"We want those children and their mother treated with the respect they deserve", he said.

It's understood King, Ella Jane and Jacob were in the vehicle.

One friend wrote on social media, "It makes me sick knowing a attractive family is still in the water, such a precious loss to all that knew you, I know I will miss you terribly".

"She is a very fearless young lady", Superintendent Starling said of Chloe May.

Ms King's Facebook says she worked as an assistant in nursing at Opal Aged Care in Tweed Heads, previously working at the Tweed Heads Bowls Club.

Another said: "Sorry to hear of this devastating news, my hearts breaking for her daughter".

"They had no chance", Grinham said.

Superintendent Starling called it a "horrible operation", adding the divers and emergency service workers involved in the rescue all had children the same age. Police recovered their bodies on Tuesday.

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