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Bodies of 2 kids found inside collapsed N.C. pit

| Monday, April 8, 2013, 6:03 p.m.

STANLEY, N.C. — The bodies of two young cousins were recovered on Monday from the rubble of a 24-foot-deep pit that was being dug with a backhoe by a man on his North Carolina property.

Rescuers had been searching for 6-year-old Chloe Jade Arwood and 7-year-old James Levi Caldwell since Sunday, when the girl's father, Jordan Arwood, called 911. Officials were on the scene near Charlotte within minutes but couldn't get to the children.

“We've been working a horrific scene here,” Lincoln County Emergency Services spokesman Dion Burleson told reporters gathered near the rural site on a two-lane road dotted with modular and mobile homes.

Later, sheriff's deputies removed firearms and a marijuana plant from the mobile home. Jordan Arwood, 31, is a felon who is not allowed to have guns. He was convicted in 2003 for possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell.

The father had been digging with a backhoe on the site earlier in the day, Sheriff David Carpenter said. He would not say what was being built or whether Arwood was doing it alone or had professional help. He said authorities didn't know of any permits that had been issued for the work or plans detailing the project.

Burleson said the children were at the bottom of the pit retrieving a child-sized pickaxe when the walls fell in on them, Carpenter said.

Carpenter later said deputies had not yet interviewed the family living in the home but planned to follow up on neighbors' reports that Arwood was excavating the two-story pit to build some sort of a protective bunker.

Neighbor Bradley Jones said the children often played in the pit when the girl's father was working there. Jones, who said he works in construction, said there was no structure to support the pit's tall dirt walls.

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