Police have confirmed the bodies of three people have now been retrieved from a car swept into a river in northern NSW
Divers from Sydney arrived mid-morning on Tuesday in the tiny flood-ravaged town of Tumbulgum on the NSW-Queensland border to begin the recovery operation.
The 43-year-old woman, her seven-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter are believed drowned after the family car veered off muddy Dulguigan Road in Tumbulgum into the Tweed River on Monday afternoon.
The woman's eight-year-old daughter miraculously escaped the car as it was washed into the water. She is now being cared for by family members.
The car was located at about 3.25pm on Monday with sonar equipment about five metres from the northern bank of the river.
The local pastor, Rob Stuttle, from the Living Waters Pentecostal Church in Tumbulgum, said contrary to reports, the road used by the family was not closed.
"It's hard enough that this family has the loss, but for the public to think she was doing something that was negligent .... I wanted to right that injustice and make sure the truth got out there," he said.
"There was no barrier to stop traffic veering off the road" said pastor Stuttle.
Residents of the town, which has a population of just 400, are already exhausted from cleaning up in the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie.
"We've had three days now and you get in and get it done, but now the emotion starts to kick in," Pastor Stuttle said.
Police divers are yet to recover the vehicle, while the bodies are yet to be formally identified.
Superintendent Wayne Starling said "The matter is going before the coroner, but I can tell you the mother was trying to get one of the children out of the car when she passed away, because she was with the child, holding the child."
Officers from Tweed/Byron Local Area Command will investigate the exact circumstances surrounding the tragedy.