Three children drowned in the Iowa River on Wednesday night during a Fourth of July celebration with their families, the Associated Press reported. Their bodies were recovered late Wednesday night, after an almost three-hour search by officials.
The victims — siblings Lee Meh, 9, and 7-year-old Sae Reh, who are brother and sister, and their 7-year-old cousin Thay Mo — were swimming and fishing with relatives when they got separated from the rest of their group, the Des Moines Register reported.
Their family are immigrants from Myanmar, according to the Register.
The children drowned in the river in the central Iowa city of Marshalltown, about 50 miles northeast of Des Moines, according to the AP.
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“The message that we are trying to get out to people is that the river is not a safe place to be, it’s not a safe place to swim,” Marshalltown Police Chief Michael Tupper said. “The river looks relatively calm down on the location where this occurred, and in many areas down there, it’s very shallow. But there are also areas that can drop off to 12 or 14 feet, and the undercurrent can be very dangerous in any river.”
Chief Tupper said that the river's conditions made it difficult to find the children, according to Radio Iowa.
“Where we could get boat access the river would become too shallow and the boats couldn’t travel to where we needed them for the work,” said Tupper. “Where we were actually working, the banks were so steep, the terrain was so difficult, that we couldn’t safely carry a boat down to the water.”
Another child drowned in the Iowa River last month, about two miles away, the AP reported.
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