Wednesday, September 3, 2003

Mom's body found in drownings in Kansas

By Carl Manning
The Associated Press

EMPORIA, Kan. - Searchers Tuesday found the bodies of two people missing since floodwaters swept their vehicles off the Kansas Turnpike over the weekend, including a woman whose four children drowned in the high water.

The body of Melissa Rogers, 33, of Glenaire, Mo., was found near a pond about 2 miles from Interstate 35, Fire Chief Jack Taylor said.

Another body, identified as Al Larsen, 31, of Fort Worth, Texas, was also found Tuesday, Taylor said. He was missing from a separate vehicle.

Larsen and the Rogers family members drowned after heavy rain sent torrents of floodwaters over the Interstate 35 late Saturday. Melissa Rogers' husband, Robert, 37, survived.

Robert Rogers is a Cincinnati native, a 1984 graduate of St. Xavier High School and the son of George and Mary Francis Rogers of Florence.

On Sunday, searchers found the bodies of the four Rogers children. Zachary, 5; Nicholas, 3; and sister, Alenah, 1, were found strapped into their car seats in the family's overturned minivan. The body of another daughter, 8-year-old Makenah, was found three-quarters of a mile away.

On Monday, Robert Rogers said that when the wall of water first hit the turnpike, he thought his family was safe because the van was pushed up against a large concrete barrier.

That heavy barrier and others eventually gave way, sending the van off the turnpike. Rogers said he kicked out the window in a desperate effort to save his family.

But he was quickly pulled by the rushing water from the vehicle, found on its roof Sunday about 11/2 miles from the highway in south-central Kansas.

Rogers said his faith would sustain him.

"We will get through this," Rogers said Monday. "We will rise above this. And by God's grace, good will somehow come from this."

Rogers described his four children as "beautiful gifts."

Kansas Highway Patrol Capt. Mark Conboy said he was present shortly after Rogers was told his wife's body had been found.

"He was extremely strong," Conboy said. "People were breaking down around him; he was holding onto them."

Authorities have said Larsen, the other victim, called his wife, Elizabeth-Anne Larsen, Saturday evening, told her his Jeep had stalled and asked her to come get him. She went to the scene but had not heard from him since the call.

Officials said it was the first time in the 50-year history of the turnpike that that particular area had flooded.

Authorities said less than a quarter-mile of I-35 was damaged.

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