A five-year-old boy’s last words before he was swept away during floods pounding California were: “Mom, it’s okay… just be calm.”
Kyle Doan and his mother Lindsy were on their way to his school when surging floodwaters overwhelmed their Chevy Travers, carrying it off the road and pinning the vehicle against a large sycamore tree.
“Don’t worry, Mommy, don’t panic,” reassured Kyle from the back seat.
After the SUV came to a rest, it began taking on water, so Ms Doan decided to abandon it.
The windows wouldn’t go down, but she was able to open her door and hug a tree. With the current pinning the rear door closed, she told Kyle to leave his belongings and climb into the front seat.
“I don’t care about your backpack,” she said. “I just want you to come to me.”
She was able to grab his hand but her grip was weak and the current swept Kyle around the other side of the tree.
“I could feel his fingers slipping from mine,” she said.
As the water pulled them apart, she let go of the tree to try to get her son, who couldn’t swim.
“I saw his head kind of floating and he was looking at me because he was going backwards,” she said. “I was trying to keep my head above the water, but the currents kept pulling me down. And after a while I didn’t see Kyle or what was going on.”
Nearby residents in San Miguel heard Ms Doan shouts and came to her rescue, but Kyle was pulled away by the water on Monday.
“Yesterday I got to the point where I think I ran out of tears,” said Ms Doan .
“I just don’t know what to expect anymore. I mean, I’ve tried to do a Google search: ‘How long can a child not eat? How long can they be in wet clothes?’ We’re worried because I don’t know if they’re going to be able to find him.”
More than 100 people, including National Guard troops, dive teams, rescuers using dogs and drones and some picking through shoulder-high piles of driftwood on the banks of San Marcos Creek searched for a fourth day for Kyle. So far, they’ve found only one of his blue and grey Nike shoes.
Storms relentlessly pounding California since the end of last year have claimed at least 18 lives.
Most of the deaths have been caused by falling trees and people driving on flooded roads.
With a sister in high school and brother in college, Kyle – who is listed as missing – is the baby in his family and loves being the centre of attention.
“He definitely capitalised on it,” his mother said. “He loves making everyone laugh. He wanted to make everyone smile. He loves to please people.”