All emergency crews and first-responders involved in the more than 12-hour search for two children’s bodies buried more than 20-feet inside a massive trench Sunday evening in Lincoln County will undergo a stress debriefing, Sheriff David Carpenter told the Times-News Tuesday.
“It’s offered for all emergency service personnel anytime you have a traumatic stress event,” he said.
The debriefing will allow rescue crews and workers to gather together to talk about what they encountered at the tragic scene.
The walls of a pit collapsed at a home on Cedarbrook Court in Stanley just before 6 p.m. Sunday, covering James Levi Caldwell, 7, and Chloe Jade Arwood, 6, with several feet of heavy clay dirt, Lincoln County Sheriff’s deputies have said.
The two cousins had been playing in the hole while the girl’s father, 31-year-old Jordan Keely Arwood, operated a backhoe on the property.
Chloe resided with her mother at a home in Gastonia, the Sheriff’s Office said, while James lived with his adoptive parents at another home on the street where the incident occurred.
According to neighbors’ comments to various news media outlets in the area, Arwood was building some sort of bunker, and the children often played inside the pit while he did construction work on the property.
On the day of the trench collapse, the children had ventured down into the hole to retrieve a small toy tool.
Arwood provided no support structure for the pit, neighbor Bradley Jones told the Associated Press. Jones is a construction worker and said he often worried about the manner in which Arwood was crafting the hole, for which the Sheriff’s Office said the Lincoln County Government Building and Land Development office never issued building permits.
On Monday, deputies said they interviewed the man and seized a marijuana plant and firearms from the home.
Convicted of similar drug use in Catawba County nearly a decade ago, the North Carolina Department of Correction website showed, Arwood is a felon and not legally permitted to own firearms.
Fire crews, search and rescue teams and medics from across four different counties flocked to the site Sunday to rescue the children after Arwood witnessed the incident and called 911.
Hours later, the effort transformed into a recovery mission.
Friends and family held a prayer vigil in memory of the children Monday night at a Gaston County church.
Charges have yet to be filed in the case while the Sheriff’s Office waits for the District Attorney’s Office to review the information. Deputies are also allowing Arwood and other family members time to grieve.
“There’s a time for the consequences…but now is just not the time,” Carpenter said. “There will be a time eventually to answer for the circumstances.”
While various news sites have reported that DA officials will decide by the end of the week whether or not Arwood will be charged, Carpenter told the Times-News a time frame has not been determined.
The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office is continuing to investigate the fatal incident, one which has not only shocked the local community but also gained national media attention.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.