A Kansas woman and her boyfriend went to work as usual Wednesday morning and their 2-year-old daughter went to day care. But only the mother returned home alive.
The body of the girl's father, who authorities say was driving intoxicated with the young girl, was pulled from a river where he landed with his pickup truck after he was approached by police, said Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet. The girl is still missing.
"This is a very tragic event," the sheriff told NBC News on Thursday. "There’s bad judgment on the part of the dad. Driving around in a vehicle with alcohol and not having the child in a child-safety seat."
Herzet said the girl's mother told police she was informed by people in their small community of Leon, about 30 miles east of Wichita, that her boyfriend was seen at a grocery store purchasing alcohol with their daughter, whom he picked up early from day care after she got sick.
"She tried to call him to bring the child home, and he said, 'No. Don’t worry about me and the child, we'll be fine,'" the sheriff said. "She got worried about that."
The woman called the Leon Police Department on Wednesday evening and notified them her boyfriend was possibly intoxicated and out driving with their daughter. When police located him about 6:45 p.m., he was inside his truck near Walnut River with the girl on his lap. The officers, who were on foot at the time, approached him and tried to convince him to give them the girl since he had been drinking, the sheriff said.
"They got to talking to him," the sheriff said, adding that the encounter began peacefully, and the girl was fine at the time. "They told him, 'We need to take the child, you don’t have a car seat.'"
Herzet said the man, who was 44, panicked and "drove off into the Walnut River." His body was extricated from the submerged car after a 90-minute recovery effort.
"Alcohol was involved, I think it’s fair to say," the sheriff said.
The sheriff said recovery efforts resumed Thursday morning for the girl.
Police have not released the names of the woman, her boyfriend or the child.
"It’s tragic for this community of Leon for the fact they know the mother, they know the father," Sheriff Herzet said. "The mother grew up in this town. And they had this child together. It’s a sad day in Butler County and in Leon today."