Police said Alyssa Mattson was speeding and trying to pass a car on Forestville Road in Wake County on Wednesday night, when she lost control, sending her car into a Knightdale pond.
She was able to make it out, but her baby, strapped into his car seat in the back, didn't make it - and was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Now, first responders are dealing with their emotions after the futile rescue attempt.
When Capt. Christopher Miller and Knightdale firefighters arrived on the scene, they heard screams for help from Mattson, so Miller and another on his team jumped in to help, before swift-water rescue crews arrived.
They were stunned by the cold, but pressed on in an effort to save the life of 6-month-old Princeton Mattson.
Christopher Miller's brother, Michael Miller, an engineer with Eastern Wake Fire and Rescue, arrived with water crews, but the challenges were mounting - the car was 12 feet below the surface and about 35 feet away from the shore. The water was murky, but the rescue effort continued.
The effort took about two hours of work, with four fire departments, two EMS agencies, and three law enforcement agencies - giving it their all to give Princeton a chance.
The car was wrenched out of the pond, the baby rushed to the hospital, but it was too late.
The pain of the loss cut deep for some. Michael Miller said it's the second infant death he and a teammate have been called to this year, and the news hit his teammate hard.
"I knew right away that once we got the kid out of the car, he was going to need somebody to be there for him," Michael said of his coworker, "and I was there to cope with him, and we hugged it out for probably six or seven minutes on the side of road, because like I said, he thought about his kids in that situation - same way with him," he said, pointing to his brother.
"I have small kids, most of the guys out there, have kids or small kids," Christopher said, "so it really hits home and it really makes it a different situation."