Victims identified in Upper Makefield flooding, as search for missing children expands

“These people did not drive into high water,” said Fire Chief Tim Brewer. “They were caught.”

Matilda and Conrad Sheils

Matilda 'Mattie' Sheils, 2, and Conrad Sheils, 9 months, remain missing after severe flooding in Upper Makefield Township. (6abc)

What you should know

  • Five people drowned amid flash flooding triggered by a powerful thunderstorm.
  • Officials are widening their search for two missing children.
  • Pa. Gov Josh Shapiro called the fatal flooding a “devastating blow” and warned residents to avoid large bodies of water.

The search for two young children continues after heavy rain in Bucks County Saturday led to dangerous flash floods. On Monday, officials identified the five people who drowned in the flooding.

“These people did not drive into high water. They were caught,” said Upper Makefield Township Fire Chief Tim Brewer.  “This was the meaning of a flash flood. … The wall of water came to them.”

Police on Monday identified the missing children as 2-year-old Matilda “Mattie” Sheils and 9-month-old Conrad Sheils. Officials confirmed the children’s mother, 32-year-old Katie Sealy, was among the deceased. The remaining victims were identified as Susan Barnhart, 53, Yuko Love, 64, Linda Depiero, 74, and Enzo Depiero, 78.

The cause of death for all five fatalities was confirmed to be drowning, said Bucks County coroner Meredith Buck.

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Brewer said the search for the missing children would continue into Tuesday, with additional help from around Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He said some search activities would continue through the night.

Brewer said weather conditions Monday allowed first responders to deploy more resources in the search, including K9 units, drones, and underwater search tools. Search teams are assisting from Bucks, Chester, and Delaware counties, as well as New Jersey, Brewer said.

“We have basically tripled the number of assets in the area, mostly because of the weather conditions,” he said early Monday. “This is going to be a massive undertaking involving the coordination and the cooperation from numerous departments and agencies throughout the state and the region.”

Upper Makefield Township officials said the children were part of a family visiting from Charleston, South Carolina.

The family’s father was able to escape with his 4-year-old son, but the mother, grandmother, and two missing children were swept away by floodwaters. The grandmother survived and was hospitalized, Upper Makefield police said.

Heavy rain pummeled other parts of the northeast U.S. over the past week, including in Vermont, where flash flooding left one person dead.

In Bucks County, the Upper Makefield area saw about 6 1/2 to 7 inches of rain in only 45 minutes, said Fire Chief Tim Brewer. Eight people were rescued from cars and two people were rescued from a creek, officials said, with up to 5 feet of water washed over the road.

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“In my 44 years,” said Brewer. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Anyone in the area who has experienced damage to their property or business is asked to report it by calling 215-968-3340.

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