Divers found the bodies of Katherine Rcom, 10, and Johnny Nay, 7, around 8 p.m.
"They [family members] are absolutely devastated," said Maj. J.C. Perry, with the Raleigh Police Department.
One-by-one, inconsolable family members and others from their Montagnard Raleigh church gathered around the Neuse River East canoe launch.
Police said they got a call around 4 p.m. that the boy and his female cousin were fishing on a bank when both fell into the murky water.
"The little boy, who I believe was 7 years old, wandered out into the water, got too deep and went under," said Perry. "His 10-year-old cousin went to reach for him, and she too was pulled under the water."
Police said the boy's father and a 14-year-old female cousin almost got pulled in when they tried to intervene. It happened just yards from a dam which was churning up a current too powerful for the very first responders to overcome.
"Four Raleigh police officers upon arriving here, along with one Wake County deputy, jumped into the water and swam for a period of minutes and were exhausted and just weren't able to find the children," said Perry.
Several agencies including those from Rolesville, Eastern Wake, and New Hope mobilized a command center on one side of the river. While for four hours, on the other side, more than a dozen divers with water and rescue teams from the Apex and Raleigh Fire Departments combed the water with grids and sonar equipment.
"Every precaution has to be taken so that we don't end up losing rescuers as well, and adding to the tragedy," said Jeffrey Hammerstein with Wake EMS.
The children's bodies were found about 60 yards from the dam.
Four years ago, two people, ages 18 and 20, drowned in the same area.