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Child drowns, mom presumed dead in Northwest storm

Don Ryan / AP

Periwinkle Creek in Albany, Ore., is searched Thursday for any signs of the car swept away overnight.

The Pacific Northwest storm that dumped snow across Washington and rain across Oregon claimed the life of a child swept into an overflowing creek. Officials on Thursday said the infant's mother was missing and presumed dead.

Four people -- two adults and two children -- were in a car at a grocery store parking lot in Albany, Ore., when witnesses saw the vehicle turn into the creek on Wednesday night.

As the car sank, a man and his son, 5, were able to get out. Both were taken to a hospital, with the child reportedly in critical condition.

The body of 20-month-old child was found later by rescue crews.

Some witnesses said up to three adults and four children were in the vehicle, but officials on Thursday confirmed that the only other person in the vehicle was the infant's mother, 18-year-old Catherine McLaughlin.

KPTV.com quoted one witness as saying he saw the driver turn into the creek, possibly thinking it was a road. He and his friend tried to save the people inside.

"I did what I thought I could. I tried to open the doors. The doors were obviously locked. When he broke the window, I assumed the child in the back was old enough to get out through the window," Zach Williams said. "Apparently, it was just an infant."

Crews worked until 11 p.m. searching for the vehicle, which is believed to have been swept farther down the creek and into an underground culvert.

"No one can survive underwater this long," oregonlive.com quoted Albany Fire Department spokeswoman Wanda Omdahl as saying late Wednesday. "It's just so tragic."

Divers were not expected to go in the culvert until the flooding subsides.

Albany is 70 miles south of Portland, Ore.

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