MONROE COUNTY, Ind. - A 24-year-old woman and her 5-year-old child have been found dead after their car became submerged in flood water in Monroe County, Indiana Department of Natural Resources officials said.
The bodies of Jana Payton, 24, and her son Bronson Liggett, 5, were found around 4:30 p.m. Saturday in flood waters. Officers had been searching an area near Moon and Sand College roads in Gosport since early Saturday morning.
Payton and her son, both of Paragon, Ind., were reported missing just before 10 a.m. when a friend who had also been in the vehicle got out, swam to safety and alerted police.
Michelle Huffman, a co-worker of Payton's, described her as a dedicated worker who held down two jobs to support her children: 5-year-old Bronson and his 7-year-old brother, who was not in car at the time.
"She was a dedicated mother of two children," Huffman said. "She's a wonderful friend. Everything is just dedication to her family, friends, co-workers."
Across Morgan County, where the Paytons lived, flood waters remained high Saturday night, leaving dozens of roads impassable. The victims' family says they believe Payton became lost on a dark, flooded road.
"I think they just had minutes to decide what to do, and it wasn't the right decision," said Payton's cousin, Mary Finney.
Finney said Payton and her son didn't know how to swim, forcing them to climb on top of the car as the third passenger swam to safety.
In Payton's hometown of Paragon, population 659, the word of her death spread quickly.
"Paragon is nothing but a big, tight family," Finney said. "It will be a huge thing here. Everybody knew her and everybody loved her."
At Tomato Pie restaurant, where Payton had worked as a waitress for the past two years, a similar sentiment was echoed.
"She had a great personality no matter what was going on in her life," Finney said. "No matter how hard things got she always had a positive attitude."