CRITTENDEN COUNTY, Ark. — The Crittenden County coroner on Monday confirmed the names of a mother and two children who drowned when their Jeep Grand Cherokee drove into the water at the Mississippi River on Friday.
Coroner William Wolfe said the victims were Aisha Fair, 26, and her children Charvon Lofton and Jattir Ragland. One child was 2 and the other 6.
The bodies were recovered Friday afternoon near the the last pylon of the Hernando DeSoto Bridge, he said.
According to the Crittenden County Sheriff's Office, Fair was involved in an accident on Interstate 40 just west of the bridge at 8:30 a.m. Friday. Her car struck an 18-wheeler's trailer, which caused her to leave the road.
The accident, however, didn't cause her to go in the water, the sheriff's office said. After the wreck, she took off driving, and took a side road on the Big River Crossing walking trail. The unused service road went through a field.
Fair's vehicle went in the water six-tenths of a mile from where the original accident occurred.
“They don’t know if it was intentional to go toward the water but that’s where she ended up," a spokesman with the sheriff's office said. "As a result, they died.”
Chief Todd Grooms with the Crittenden County Sheriff's Office said Fair's fiance called the department and told them she had kids in the vehicle.
"We knew for certain when we started pulling vehicle out of the water, we could see the kids in the vehicle," Grooms said.
According to a witness, the wreck caused Fair's vehicle to spin around, facing the interstate before it came to a stop. At that point, the witness said, she turned left and accelerated down the embankment, through a wire barricade and across a road and a soybean field, before launching across a bike trail into the river.
“It was not an accident," the witness said. “She chose to step on that accelerator and go down that embankment.”
Deputies spoke with Fair's family, who said she had some mental issues. They did not specify what those issues were.
A fund raising account posted July 18 to collect money for Fair indicated she had "an illness called schizoaffective disorder and is on unpaid sick leave from her job."
Neighbors called Fair a loving mother who battled a disease.
"She had mental issues. Everyone around here knew that. That's nothing that's new," neighbor Norman Barksdale said.
They said she got in a fight with her fiance Friday and took off toward Arkansas with her kids in the car.
“We still ain’t got over the shock," Barksdale said. "We're trying to live with this disgust, trying to rack our brains trying to understand why would she do this?”
Fair's vehicle wasn't found until someone called the Crittenden County Sheriff's Office around noon, saying a woman found a body next to the Hernando DeSoto Bridge. Her fiance warned deputies the kids were in the vehicle.
When officials pulled the Jeep from the water, they saw the two children in there. The 6-year-old was in the front seat, deputies said.
“We all in mourning about those boys,” Barksdale said.
The incident is still under investigation.