Anonymous donor from ‘out of town’ pays for funerals of ALL 20 Tennessee flash flooding victims


Twenty people who died in a Tennessee flood have had their funerals paid for by an anonymous donor from ‘out of town’, a funeral home manager said.

A man who wished to remain unnamed walked into the the Humphreys County Funeral Home in Waverly on Thursday and paid for the nine funerals being organized there.

Manager William Brown told the Tennessean that the man also went to other funeral homes in the area to pay for the funerals of the other 11 victims.

The donations came as hundreds of thousands of dollars flowed into the community from donors across the state and nation to help families affected by the devastating flood on Saturday.

The flooding took out houses, roads, cellphone towers and telephone lines, with rainfall that more than tripled forecasts and shattered the state record for one-day rainfall. 

More than 270 homes were destroyed and 160 took major damage, according to the Humphreys County Emergency Management Agency.

 Rainfall more than tripled forecasts and shattered the state record for one-day rainfall

More than 270 homes were destroyed and 160 took major damage, according to the Humphreys County Emergency Management Agency

 More than 270 homes were destroyed and 160 took major damage, according to the Humphreys County Emergency Management Agency

It comes after a Tennessee woman who was livestreaming rising flash-floodwaters drowned shortly after recording the video.

Linda Almond, of Waverly, Tennessee, was on the roof of her home with her son, Tommy, when it collapsed and the pair were swept away by rushing water.

Tommy was rescued by authorities, but Almond did not survive, her family confirmed on Facebook.

Almond’s one-minute Facebook live, which has now had more than 20,000 views, includes her final words: ‘This is really scary. Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness.’

As of Tuesday morning, at least 21 people were killed and 10 others missing as a result of catastrophic floods that came after 17 inches of rain fell over parts of Tennessee in a 24-hour period.

Among those killed were two seven-month-old twins and the ranch foreman for country singer Loretta Lynn.

Linda Almond (pictured) drowned in Tennessee's catastrophic flooding on Saturday shortly after she live streamed the developing situation on Facebook

Linda Almond

Linda Almond (pictured) drowned in Tennessee’s catastrophic flooding on Saturday shortly after she live streamed the developing situation on Facebook

Her video showed mudded waters, carrying debris, roar through her Waverly, Tenn. community on Saturday morning

Her video showed mudded waters, carrying debris, roar through her Waverly, Tenn. community on Saturday morning

Tommy was rescued, but Almond (pictured) did not survive, her family confirmed on Sunday. Officials determined she died in the water

Tommy was rescued, but Almond (pictured) did not survive, her family confirmed on Sunday. Officials determined she died in the water

The mother went live on Facebook just before 10.15am on Saturday, showing her friends the developing floods in her community.

‘Well, if anybody’s seeing me on Facebook Live, we’re being flooded right now in Waverly, Tennessee. Really scary,’ she said at the start of the video.

The footage shows mudded waters carrying debris roar past her home. 

‘Whoa. Whoa,’ Almond said, voice shaking.

A man, likely Tommy, responded: ‘I think something just hit the side of the house.’

Almond spoke her final words, reiterating how terrifying the situation was, and stopped the stream thereafter. 

The family told WKRN that Almond and Tommy managed to get to the roof of the house as the flood waters rose.

Unfortunately, the roof collapsed, sweeping the pair into the water.  

Tommy was rescued, but Almond remained missing for several hours.

The family confirmed on Facebook around 2pm Sunday that Almond’s body had been found and officials determined she had died in the water.  

Almond was caught in floods in Waverly, Tenn., located about 60 miles west of Nashville in Humphreys County. The town, which was under a flash flood emergency Saturday, saw approximately 21 inches of rain in a single day. Radar indicates that nine inches fell in just three hours

Almond was caught in floods in Waverly, Tenn., located about 60 miles west of Nashville in Humphreys County. The town, which was under a flash flood emergency Saturday, saw approximately 21 inches of rain in a single day. Radar indicates that nine inches fell in just three hours

The flash floods came after 17 inches of rain fell over parts of Tennessee in a 24-hour period Saturday, which smashed the state’s previous single-day record of 9.45 inches in 2010, according to the National Weather Service Nashville.  

Waverly, where Almond lived, is located about 60 miles west of Nashville in Humphreys County. The community, which was under a flash flood emergency Saturday, saw approximately 21 inches of rain in a single day, the Washington Post reported. Radar indicates that nine inches fell in just three hours. 

As of Tuesday morning, at least 21 people were killed and 10 others remain missing as a result of the flooding. 

The Humphreys County town of McEwen was hit with the worst of the flooding, which washed away homes and rural roads.

‘Our people need help,’ Humphreys County Sheriff Davis said at a Monday afternoon news conference, the New York Times reported. ‘We are going to be overwhelmed for the next 30 days at least — overwhelmed.’ 

He said damage from the flooding stretched up to 10 miles.  

Among the dead were seven-month-old twins Ryan and Rieligh Rigney, who were pulled away from their father in a deluge when floodwaters swept through their apartment complex.

The twins were at home with their mother, Danielle Hall, father, Matthew Rigney, and their siblings, Maleah, 5, and Brayla, 19 months, when water smashed through their apartment on Saturday morning. 

‘We heard a loud boom and it was the door busting in and water raging through our house,’ Rigney told WTVR

Swept away in the waters were seven-months-old twins Ryan and Rileigh Rigney (pictured) whose bodies were recovered by authorities after they were pulled from their father

Swept away in the waters were seven-months-old twins Ryan and Rileigh Rigney (pictured) whose bodies were recovered by authorities after they were pulled from their father

A GoFundMe account was established to help the family. It had raised more than $85,000, as of Tuesday morning. Funeral arrangements have been made for Rileigh (left) and Ryan (right)

A GoFundMe account was established to help the family. It had raised more than $85,000, as of Tuesday morning. Funeral arrangements have been made for Rileigh (left) and Ryan (right)

The final watermark in the family's apartment topped six feet

The apartment suffered significant damage from the flood

The final watermark in the family’s apartment topped six feet. The above photos show damage to the unit following the flood

Hall attempted to climb out of a window when she was swept away in the torrent. She managed to make it to safety, while Rigney grabbed the four children. 

But despite his best efforts, the twins were torn from his arms, and they went under the water and disappeared, their grandmother said. 

‘I was going for help… I was going to the store behind us. I didn’t know it was flooded,’ Hall said. 

‘I had the twins in my arms, Brayla at my hip and Maleah around my neck. The water, when it hit us just pulled us under, all of us trapped underneath a bed,’ explained Rigney. 

The final watermark in the family’s apartment topped six feet. 

Ryan and Rileigh’s bodies were recovered in the unit by rescue workers later on Saturday after the water had receded, Humphreys County Sheriff said.

A GoFundMe account was established to help the family. It had raised more than $85,000, as of Tuesday morning. Funeral arrangements have been made for the twins.

Patrick Sheehan, the director of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, told the New York Times he expects the official death toll to rise in the coming days.

‘I would expect, given the number of fatalities we have seen so far, that we are going to see mostly recovery efforts at this point, rather than rescue efforts,’ Sheehan said.  

Vanessa Yates checks the flood damage inside of her home in Waverly, Tenn., Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021

Vanessa Yates checks the flood damage inside of her home in Waverly, Tenn., Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021

Anthony and Vanessa Yates find their wedding wreath in their flood damaged home in Waverly, Tenn., Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021

Anthony and Vanessa Yates find their wedding wreath in their flood damaged home in Waverly, Tenn., Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021

Yates (pictured with her daughter, Coralai) climbed on top of her kitchen counters, holding her baby, as flood waters filled their home

Yates (pictured with her daughter, Coralai) climbed on top of her kitchen counters, holding her baby, as flood waters filled their home

Vanessa Yates, 28, of Waverly, was also trapped in Saturday’s flooding. As water filled her home, Yates climbed on top of her kitchen counters in an attempt to protect herself and her 4-month-old daughter, Coralai.

‘I thought I was going to drown with my baby,’ she told the Tennessean. ‘I didn’t know what to do.’ 

She said it didn’t take long for the flood waters to reach her ankles, even though she was standing on the countertop.

Yates broke a kitchen window and escaped with Coralai, both unharmed. 

‘My brother-in-law took a kayak until he was able to reach these other two guys. Everybody was searching for us. People had called 911 multiple times. It was by the grace of God that they found us. They got to the door and they were getting us out,’ she told WKRN.

‘All I was doing was begging God to make the rain stop. The house next to us was on fire, and I just wanted out of there so bad. I am just so thankful that they came and got us. I was just so relieved.’  

Unlike the Yates family, some Tennesseans remain separated from their loved ones. 

Two-year-old Kellen Cole Burrow is among the ten still missing. The boy’s family was caught out by the deluge and his mother, Brittney LeAnn McCord, grabbed onto the clothes line and grasped hold of her five children. She held on for as long as she could outside their family’s apartment as the waters rose before the powerful surge pulled Kellen from her arms, the Tennessean reported.

His stepfather, Kalaub McCord, was away that night, seeking treatment for a painful sinus infection at a nearby emergency room before the roads became clogged with floodwaters.    

Two-year-old Kellen Cole Burrows was swept from his mother's arms during Saturday's catastrophic flooding in Tennessee that has killed at least 21. He remains among 10 people still missing as of Monday

Kellen Burrow Vaughn (pictured) remains missing after he was swept away from a Waverly apartment complex by the floodwaters

Two-year-old Kellen Cole Burrows was swept from his mother’s arms during Saturday’s catastrophic flooding in Tennessee that has killed at least 21. He remains among 10 people still missing as of Monday 

Kalaub McCord's stepfather recalled the last time he saw the toddler, before he headed to a nearby emergency room for treatment for a painful sinus infection

Kalaub McCord’s stepfather recalled the last time he saw the toddler, before he headed to a nearby emergency room for treatment for a painful sinus infection 

He recalled the last time he saw him. 

‘I seen him that night when we put him to bed, but she had him in her arms whenever he got swept away,’ he told Fox 17

It took McCord five hours to return to his family home, and he recounted helping others along the way, including two elderly women who couldn’t swim, but he was unable to return to his wife and children in time. 

‘I couldn’t get back to him, but she managed to save our other four children. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have any children right now,’  McCord said. 

Also missing is 15-year-old Lilly Bryant, who had just started her freshman year of high school.  

‘Loved everybody, loved to make people laugh,’ family friend Chelsea Simons told Fox 17. ‘There’s not another one like her.’

‘If we don’t find her tonight, we’ll be right back here in the morning as soon as daylight breaks to continue,’ she told the station Sunday. ‘We’re not gonna stop until we find their baby.’

Humphreys County Sherriff Chris Davis said Monday afternoon that emergency workers there would be overwhelmed for at least 30 days in the aftermath of the flooding

Humphreys County Sherriff Chris Davis said Monday afternoon that emergency workers there would be overwhelmed for at least 30 days in the aftermath of the flooding 

The Nashville Fire Department posts aerial photos of massive flooding in Tennessee after heavy rainfall that led to severe flooding

As of Tuesday morning, at least 21 people were killed and 10 others missing as a result of the flooding 

Patrick Sheehan, the director of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, said he expects the official death toll to rise in the coming days

Patrick Sheehan, the director of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, said he expects the official death toll to rise in the coming days

Also killed in the flood was Wayne Spears, the ranch foreman for country singer Loretta Lynn.

He was seen with his arms around the beam at Lynn’s ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, on Saturday after being caught by rapidly rising floodwaters while checking on the ranch’s animals.

But tragically, Spears died after the structure he was clinging to washed away moments later, according to local news site the Tennessee Holler

This distressing photo shows Loretta Lynn's ranch foreman Wayne Spears moments before he was swept to his death during a flood that hit the singer's property in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, on Saturday

This distressing photo shows Loretta Lynn’s ranch foreman Wayne Spears moments before he was swept to his death during a flood that hit the singer’s property in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, on Saturday 

Wayne Spears and Loretta Lynn

Wayne Spears tribute photo

County star Lynn, pictured left with Spears, was unharmed by the floods, but paid a touching tribute to her ‘irreplaceable’ rancher in a Facebook post announcing his death Sunday 

‘He’s out at his barn and next thing you know, he goes from checking animals in the barn to hanging on in the barn to people seeing him floating down the creek. And that´s how fast it had come up,’ Humphrey’s County Sheriff Chris Davis said.

‘Wayne´s just one of those guys, he just does everything for everybody, if there´s a job to do,’ said his friend Michael Pate, who met Spears at the ranch 15 years ago. 

Lynn herself is safe from the floods, which were the worst ever to have swept through her ranch. She shared a tribute to Spears Sunday, writing: ‘With the heaviest of hearts we are saddened to report that our beloved foreman Wayne Spears did not survive being swept up in the flood waters. Wayne has been a family friend to the Lynns and a fixture to the Ranch for decades and we are all devastated by his passing’The Ranch will never be the same without him but he will always be remembered for his ready smile, kind heart, and willingness to go the extra mile for everyone around him.

Helicopter pilot saves 17 people from Tennessee flood

A helicopter pilot who had just helped his fiancee to earn her pilot’s licence has spoken of his daring rescue of 17 people stranded on rooftops by rising floodwaters in Tennessee.

Nashville-based Joel Boyers said he had prayed for God to show him his life had meaning just days before the phone call came from a desperate woman looking for someone to help her brother and his family who were stranded on a rooftop in Waverly.

Piloting the only helicopter in the sky in the area at the time, Mr Boyers manoeuvred around power lines, balanced his skids on sloped rooftops, and hovered over floodwaters to rescue 17 people in total.

Nashville-based helicopter pilot Joel Boyers rescued people from a rooftop, Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021 in Waverly, Tenn. Boyers, who co-owns Helistar Aviation, said he ended up rescuing 17 people that day

Nashville-based helicopter pilot Joel Boyers rescued people from a rooftop, Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021 in Waverly, Tenn. Boyers, who co-owns Helistar Aviation, said he ended up rescuing 17 people that day

Speaking about Saturday’s incident in an interview with the Associated Press, Mr Boyers said it felt great to use his skills for something so important.

He says he has received lots of thanks from the people he helped, but also acknowledged their role in helping him.

The weather was terrible and Boyers had to contend with hills and high-voltage power lines on the way to Waverly, a small city about 60 miles west of Nashville.

Just before reaching the town, he set down in a field to get his bearings and realised the internet was down, making it impossible to pinpoint the house he was looking for. He flew on anyway.

‘As soon as I popped over the ridge, it was nothing but tan raging water below me,’ he said.

‘There were two houses that were on fire. There were cars in trees. There was tonnes of debris. Any way debris could get caught, it was. I knew no-one was going to be able to swim in that.’

A few people were out in boats, rescuing the stranded, and one person was helping with a jet ski, but Mr Boyers was alone in the sky. He started flying up and down the flooded creek, grabbing anyone he could.

The pilot, who co-owns Helistar Aviation, said he ended up rescuing 17 people that day.

Boyers had just finished helping his fiancée, Melody Among, earn her pilot's license on Saturday morning, and they were heading home to celebrate, when he received a frantic call from a woman in Pennsylvania

Boyers had just finished helping his fiancée, Melody Among, earn her pilot’s license on Saturday morning, and they were heading home to celebrate, when he received a frantic call from a woman in Pennsylvania 

He’s proud of that, but said he’s the one who should be thanking them. ‘I literally prayed just days before this that God would give me some meaning in my life, and then I end up getting this call,’ he said.

He has flown over disasters, including floods, before, but ‘the cops are usually there, and my hands are tied. This time there weren’t any’.

Saturday’s flooding killed 20 people, taking out houses, roads, mobile phone towers and telephone lines, with rainfall that more than tripled forecasts and shattered the state record for one-day rainfall.

More than 270 homes were destroyed and 160 took major damage, according to the Humphreys County Emergency Management Agency.

Mr Boyers used all the skills learned over 16 years flying, including for a television news station, documentary-makers and for country music stars, in order to carry out the rescue.

‘I don’t want to lie,’ he said. ‘It was almost a little fun for me.’

It was also a powerful experience to go through with his fiancee, Melody Among, who acted as his co-pilot, spotting power lines, giving him sips of water and even taking the controls at times.

‘Her and I will be bonded to those people for life,’ he said.

The rescues of four of those people were caught on video by Jeani Rice-Cranford, who lives on a nearby hilltop and helped shelter the victims in her home afterward. ‘I’ve never seen anything like that,’ Ms Rice-Cranford said. ‘Not in real life.’

Ms Rice-Cranford and others had been lined up along the roadside – helplessly watching and listening to the screams – for more than two hours when Boyers showed up. During the rescue ‘there was a gust of wind, and the helicopter kind of shifted,’ she said.

‘We all just held our breath. We were just watching with our mouths open, hoping and praying that he would be able to get them.’





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