Mother, son die in car’s river plunge

An elderly woman and her son are dead after their car plunged into a river at Smithtown on the mid-noth coast of NSW.

Margaret Rodwell, 79, and her son Cameron Rodwell, 54, were heading to a birthday party in Smithtown, about 15km north-east of Kempsey, when their car left the road and went into the Macleay River just after 11am.

It's believed the vehicle was attempting a U-turn when it careened down an embankment into the water.

A rescue operation was launched involving Mid North Coast police, NSW Police Marine Area Command officers, Marine Rescue and Maritime NSW, with divers flown in by helicopter from Sydney to comb the river for the vehicle and its passengers.

Angela Dixon, who witnessed the accident, told 9News "the hardest part was not being able to do anything to help them."

"We were advised not to help them," she said.

"It's a very sad day for their family."

About 4pm, divers located the submerged sedan about four metres below the surface of the water and removed the bodies of the mother and son from inside.

The car was then retrieved from the water by a crane.

The car will be forensically examined, and a report will be prepared for the coroner.

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