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ST. LOUIS – Family and friends of 12-year-old Aaeleya Carter gathered Saturday morning at a storm drain where she was swept away hours earlier.  

Aaeleya was traveling with others in a vehicle around 1:30 a.m. They were attempting to drive from Airflight Drive to I-70 because the road was flooded.

As they turned around and started up the ramp, they were swept off the roadway. It was near the intersection of the ramp and I-70.

Aaleya Carter

Aaeleya was swept down the drain during the flash flood. Her body was later found off McDonnell Boulevard where Cold Water Creek intersects.

“She was out this morning with her mom and brother, and sister enjoying her birthday,” said Tanya Carter, Aaleya’s grandmother.  

“They had just left the movies and the water picked up the car and pushed it to the side to where it was hard for them to get out, and she didn’t know there was a drain up under the drain, and she went up under the drain.” 

The three other occupants in the vehicle were able to make it out safely. 

“The water, I was told by witnesses, got up to two (feet) over the interstate,” Missouri State Highway Patrol Cpl. Juston Wheetley said. “Some vehicles were traveling and trying to navigate the water became disabled on the interstate.” 

“This vehicle attempted to go in the water and attempted a u-turn and go back up Airflight road to avoid the flooded roadway. As they turned in the water, the current swept the vehicle off the roadway and into that concrete drain opening.” 

There were overnight rescue efforts for Aaeleya, who turned 12 last Wednesday. The family was returning home from a movie in celebration of her recent birthday early Saturday morning.

By mid-morning Saturday, there was a social media post asking for help in finding Aaleya that brought neighbors and strangers to the scene where she was swept away. 

A false report that she had been found alive sent people to terminal two at Southwest Airlines, but another report led family and authorities to the other side of Lambert off McDonnell Boulevard just before noon. 

“She was fatally injured as a result of being swept in the drain,” Wheetley said. “This was a fluke thing. This is not something we’ve seen before.” 

“I do know that trying to navigate floodwaters is extremely dangerous. So we do want to encourage people as more rain comes in, those roadways will become flooded in areas.  So stay in your vehicle at all possible.”