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Young Sisters Die After Truck Plunges Into Russian River

JENNER, Sonoma County (CBS SF) -- Two young sisters were killed when a truck driven by their mother careened off Highway 1 near Jenner early Tuesday, crashing into the Russian River and submerging in 10-15 feet of water, Monte Rio Fire Protection District Chief Steve Baxman said.

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office identified the victims as 4-year-old Hailey Markus, and her 6-year-old sister Kaitlyn, both from Jenner, CA.

Emergency crews including divers from the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department rushed to the scene around 8:30 a.m. after receiving 911 calls of a vehicle in the Russian River near the Jenner Beach Trail with multiple people trapped inside.

Jenner resident Harry Kenney was bird watching on the river bank with his wife when they were startled by the sounds of the crash.

"I looked over and said 'Oh my goodness, it's a boat,'" Kenney said. "Somebody threw a big boat in the water. Then I looked again and said 'Oh no, it's a car or a truck.' But before I could tell for sure it went gurgle, gurgle, gurgle and disappeared. There was a bunch of bubbles. Then a woman came up (to the surface) and started screaming -- 'My babies! My babies!'"

CHP Officer Jon Sloat said the mother may have over-corrected, causing the truck to drive off the road and down a 40-foot embankment into the river.

A passing truck driver and others dove into the river, attempting to reach the children, who were being driven to school. But they could not get to them in time. The girls bodies were found inside the submerged 2009 Ford F-250 four-door truck.

Initial California Highway Patrol reports said that there were four people in the vehicle -- two adults and two children. The adults were able to escape the vehicle, but the children were trapped inside.

The 32-year-old mother was treated at the scene by paramedics.

Sonoma County sheriff's deputies were at the scene along with several fire agencies.

Crews pulled the vehicle from the water Tuesday afternoon. The truck is registered to a Joshua and Sarah Marcus.

Highway 1 was closed for several hours until around 1 p.m. as the vehicle was removed from the river.

TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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