23 killed in West Virginia floods that swept preschooler away from grandfather’s reach
As storms have swept West Virginia, roads have turned into rivers, cars have been swallowed whole and at least 23 people have been killed — including a preschooler who fell into floodwaters that carried him away.
Officials said at least 23 had died in the destructive and deadly thunderstorms that have swept the state, according to the Associated Press. Of those, at least 15 had been killed in Greenbrier County, according to the state’s division of Homeland Security.
One victim was 4-year-old Edward McMillion, whose body was recovered from a small stream Friday morning, a day after search-and-rescue crews started scouring the area to find him, Jackson County authorities said.
Jackson County Sheriff Tony Boggs said the boy was playing in his backyard Thursday afternoon in Ravenswood, a small town along the Ohio River, when he either fell or jumped into the fast-moving water.
The boy’s grandfather tried to grab him, police said, but the current was simply too strong.
“He saw him; he chased him,” Boggs told The Washington Post. “He got close to him — and he may have even grabbed him. But he couldn’t get him out.”
JUST IN: Picture of Utah Road where toddler has been swept away by high water. Search suspended as storm comes in pic.twitter.com/E0jwegAoMy
Authorities said the 4-year-old’s body was recovered Friday from a small but rushing stream not far from where he went in.
Because the water runs into a nearby creek that dumps into the Ohio River, authorities said, first responders from several surrounding cities started searching for the boy late Thursday afternoon, but had to halt their operation for a short time when another storm hit.
“A major storm came through during the search, and we had to get people out for safety reasons,” Boggs said. But, he added, by that time, the operation was “being treated like more of a recovery than a rescue.”
The search stopped late Thursday night when it got too dark to see.
Officials from Ripley Fire and Rescue called it “Tragedy in Ravenswood.”
“With what seemed to be the entire town of Ravenswood helping in the search, several reports of possible sightings of the boy were investigated but nothing was found,” according to a statement from the fire and rescue squad.
Boggs said there was an “unsubstantiated” sighting that was never confirmed.
Early Friday morning, about 85 first responders came together to pray and plan out the second day’s search, according to ABC affiliate WCHS. By late morning, his body was found, according to the station.
Earlier this week, the National Weather Service warned that these thunderstorms — called a derecho — might develop Wednesday and move across a corridor from Iowa to West Virginia.
As the Capital Weather Gang reported:
Derechos, which from Spanish translate to “straight ahead,” frequently produce widespread wind damage over a long path (at least 240 miles long). They move at very fast speeds, often 60 or 70 mph, covering vast territory in a short time.
West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) issued a state of emergency Thursday for 44 counties.
On Friday, he said, officials are working to keep residents safe amid severe flooding that he called among “the worst in a century for some parts of the state.”
“We understand many counties continue to experience significant problems and some waters continue to rise,” he said in a statement. “Joanne and I are thinking continually about those affected by this disaster, and our thoughts and prayers are with those who lost loved ones. I appreciate the tireless efforts of first responders across the state, many of whom have volunteered to travel long distances to help those in the most affected areas.”
Hope @The_Greenbrier drys out soon!! #GreenbrierClassic #hole18-17-1 pic.twitter.com/n2HRUTYpw7
Another boy, 8-year-old Emanual Williams, was found unresponsive Thursday, hours after he slipped and fell into Big Wheeling Creek in Ohio County while walking with his mother and sister along a creek bank, authorities told NBC affiliate WTOV.
The boy’s mother reached for him as he fell into rushing water some 20 feet deep.
Wheeling’s Deputy Police Chief Martin Kimball told WTOV that the child was rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family,” Kimball told the news station.
Dive teams still searching for an 8 year old Emanual Williams. Wheeling PD says the boy slipped @WTOV9 pic.twitter.com/NQ1o26Rf3x
Elahe Izadi contributed to this post, which has been updated.
This article was written by Lindsey Bever from The Washington Post and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.