Tweed River tragedy: Bodies of mother and kids found in Australian river

Assistant Commissioner Northern Region Commander Jeff Loy said the auto crashed off the road and plunged into the river.

A 10-year-old girl was pulled from the auto after it came off Dulguigan Road at Tumbulgum, landing in the Tweed River at about 1.40pm today.

The eight-year-old girl is being cared for by family members.

Police divers have recovered the bodies of a mother and two children from a auto that plunged into the flooded Tweed River yesterday afternoon.

A desperate search is under way for the driver and two other passengers inside the vehicle, which is completely submerged. She is originally from New Zealand, and returned there just last month after the death of her father.

Another said: "Sorry to hear of this devastating news, my hearts breaking for her daughter". Overnight on Monday police had guarded the scene and a dive squad travelled from Sydney.

On Tuesday morning, a crane was positioned on the river bank and a police helicopter landed at the scene as divers entered the water to recover the vehicle.

Mrs King was reportedly retrieved from the vehicle with one of her children in her arms.

"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.

Another witness Peter Taylor said a girl ran up the road and said her family had gone into the river.

"She couldn't say much, she just said my mum, my little sister and my brother have gone in the river in a vehicle".

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"She was really upset".

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

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.

Sophie said a woman who lived in a nearby house looked after the girl while the witnesses tried to mount their rescue effort.

Mr Grinham said he felt "helplessness" as he watched air bubbles surfacing in the river but "just couldn't find the car".

Superintendent Starling said the dark, debris-filled river meant the divers could only locate the auto by feel.

"It was just too deep; we couldn't get down far enough", Mr Darcy said.

"They had no chance, no chance", said former highway patrol officer Matt Grinham, who tried to rescue the family along with two other men.

At the weekend, residents and volunteers used shovels and high-pressure hoses to clear thick slabs of mud from their homes, as ruined belongings were piled outside.

As news of the incident spread through the small town, locals including Pastor Rob Stuttle disputed claims the family was driving along a closed road.

  • Megan Austin