The two minor daughters of an Indian-American couple, who drowned in the US, have been handed over to a family friend and will soon fly to India to their grandparents, a media report said.
The girls, aged 7 and 12, were placed under the custody of the Arizona Department of Child Safety after their father Narayana Muddana (49) and mother, Haritha Muddana, along with their family friend 47-year-old Gokul Mediseti, drowned at the Woods Canyon Lake in Coconino County in the US state of Arizona.
The Arizona Department of Child Safety had to be called on Monday to come out to Forest Lakes and take custody of the orphaned girls.
"You never get used to it. Especially when you're dealing with the children," Jon Paxton with the Coconino County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) was quoted as saying by ABC15.com on Wednesday.
"We wanted to make sure they felt as safe as possible. Tried to keep them warm and away from the scene as best we could," he added.
However, Kishore Pittala, Mr Muddana's next-door neighbour and close friend, drove up to Payson in Arizona to get the two orphaned children from the custody of the child safety department, the report added.
"I can see from the faces, I know they have some sadness. But they are doing good for now," Pittala told ABC15.
The two girls will soon fly to India, said Venkat Kommineni, President of the Arizona Telugu Association.
"Because (the) grandparents are there in India, and they are going to take care of them," Mr Kommineni was quoted as saying.
On December 26, three families - comprising six adults and five kids - drove up from the Valley to enjoy the snowy outdoors.
"(They) Wanted to get some pictures out on the ice," said Paxton.
During the photograph out on the ice, three persons fell through and into the minus 30-degree water.
According to a statement released by officials with CCSO, "deputies stationed at a substation in the area were called to the lake after two men and a woman were walking on the frozen lake and fell through the ice." Meanwhile, the community is mourning and coming together to support the two families torn apart by an expected tragedy, the report added.
"He's a very fun, loving guy. He's very kind at heart. Loved his kids" said Mr Pittala.
Mr Pittala told ABC15 the Muddana family invited his family to Woods Canyon Lake a few days ago.
"On Sunday night he sent me the link. 'Hey, we are heading out to this place. Do you want to join?' I said, 'No, I was already tired." But two other families joined the Muddanas who were celebrating Haritha's birthday, the report added.
"A total of 11 people went there, and as you know, two families got impacted," said Mr Kommineni.
The parents, Narayana Rao and Haritha, fell into the icy water along with their friend Gokul, who leaves behind a wife and one daughter.
"I was in shock," said Mr Pittala. "I don't understand, did this really happen for a moment?" Mr Kommineni told ABC15 he was surprised by how many people have attempted to help the girls directly.
"I think five people reached out to me saying, 'Are these kids up for adoption? We would like to take care of their life.'"
Three of them fell through the ice while walking on a frozen lake to get some pictures.
By the time someone got cell service up the hill and first responders arrived with their limited cold water rescue resources, it was too late, ABC15.com reported.
Rescuers pulled Haritha from the water, but she was pronounced dead. The two men were found the next day.
More than $500,000 has been raised through a GoFundMe fundraiser for the families impacted.
"The money is going to go (in) the name of the kids - for their education, for their future, whatever they need to do in life," said Mr Kommineni.
Woods Canyon Lake is located east of Payson in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests. It is an area popular among hikers, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts.
More than one million Americans and Canadians are facing problems as a massive winter storm continues to pummel North America.
A bomb cyclone, when atmospheric pressure plummets, has brought snow, strong winds and freezing temperatures. Nearly 250 million are affected, and at least 19 deaths have been linked to the storm that extends more than 3,200km from Quebec to Texas.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)