Two little brothers drown after mom leaves them in car that rolled into river

Four-year-old Steve Smith and his 1-year-old brother, Rasheed Johnson Jr, drowned after their mother Jenea Monique Payne (25) left them in a locked car next to a river while she went into a shop.

Payne, who is from the US town Leland in Mississippi, allegedly left her three children sleeping in the vehicle while she quickly ran into the store. The mother-of-three was in the store for five to 10 minutes. When she came out, the car was gone – it had somehow rolled into the river, Mirror UK reports.

Firefighters and bystanders rushed to save the children by trying to break the car's windows but only managed to free 2-year-old Raelynn before the car was swept away by the current.

According to Metro UK, the car was found a few hours later with the bodies of the two boys inside.

On Monday, Payne was charged with two counts of manslaughter and one count of child neglect, The Sun reports.

Firefighter Sara Hester, who helped save Raelynn, told a local news outlet that the tragedy was "an accident, 100%".

Hester says Payne was hysterical when she realised what had happened to her car and kids. Hester has also defended the grieving mom from critics.

"This is going to be one of the hardest things that she ever has to do.

"Just because you wouldn't do that one thing, doesn't mean that you haven't put your children in a different situation . . . that could have resulted in tragedy," Hester said.

"It's not our place to be so ugly to someone that has already got the weight of the world on her."

Payne was reportedly released on bail on Monday afternoon and the case will be referred to the district attorney's office.

Sources: Mirror UK , The Sun , Metro UK