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N.C. pit collapse that killed 2 kids investigated

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

Rescuers had been digging for Chloe Jade Arwood, 6, and James Levi Caldwell, 7, 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. The area is on a two-lane road dotted with modular and mobile homes.

Later yesterday, sheriff's deputies removed firearms and a marijuana plant from the mobile home. The 31-year-old father is a felon who is not allowed to have guns. He was convicted in 2003 of 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. Authorities didn't know of any permits that had been issued for the work or plans detailing the project, he said.

Burleson described the pit as 20 feet by 20 feet with a sloped entrance leading down to the 24-foot bottom. The children were at the bottom of the pit retrieving a child-sized pickax when the walls fell in on them, Carpenter said.

He said deputies would follow up on neighbors' reports that Arwood was excavating to build some sort of a protective bunker. -- AP

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