WOOD COUNTY, W.Va. — A Wood County family has lost two members to floodwaters.
The body of Robert Smith, Jr., 56, of Waverly, was recovered from Laurel Creek on Saturday a day after the body of his daughter, Topanga Smith, 18, was found in their vehicle that was swept away in Friday’s high water near Parkersburg, according to investigators.
Early on Friday morning, “It was foggy. It was rainy and there was a lot of high water here in Wood County,” said Wood County Sheriff Steve Stephens.
“When they came into an area where the creek had crossed over the roadway, it appears they drove over that and were swept into the creek itself.”
Stephens said Mr. Smith was driving his daughter to work as heavy rain fell in Wood County which was under a flood warning from the National Weather Service.
High water was causing travel issues at the time in other parts of northern West Virginia.
“I honestly think they were very aware of their area where they were at, but due to the weather conditions with the dense fog and the darkness that early in the morning, I think it snuck up on them,” the sheriff told MetroNews of the victims.
“The driver’s side window was rolled down, so we do believe that he (Mr. Smith) got out in an effort probably to try to save his daughter, but he was swept downstream.”
Conditions changed during the search for the two which spanned parts of two days.
“On the 1st day it was really muddy, swampy, the banks of the creek were very soft and caving in,” said Stephens. “Then on the 2nd day, we had probably five inches of snow and the weather was a lot colder.”
On Saturday, in the cold and snow, Mr. Smith’s body was recovered about 3/4 of a mile downstream on Laurel Creek from the location of his vehicle, a Jeep Cherokee.
“It’s very tragic,” Sheriff Stephens said.
In addition to the Wood County Sheriff’s Department, members of the Waverly Volunteer Fire Department and Little Hocking Volunteer Fire Department Dive Team were among the agencies that joined search efforts.