A Georgia father on Thursday described the living “hell” of receiving a phone call that his 11-year-old daughter suffered a fatal injury during Hurricane Michael, and there was nothing he could do.
Roy Radney, 37, her father, told the New York Times his parents called after his daughter, Sarah, was struck in the head by a carport that was blown into their modular home. The girl was visiting at the time and his parents assured him that the home could withstand 150 mph winds.
Authorities said Michael’s tremendous winds lifted the portable structure high into the air and slammed it back down on the house. One of the legs ripped through the roof, fatally striking the 11-year-old girl in the head. She struggled to breathe for 45 minutes after being hit.
“Last night was just hell,” said Radney, who lives in Cairo, Ga. “I’m an hour and a quarter away, and my daughter’s dying, and I can’t do anything about it. I can’t think of anything that is more related to hell than that.”
First responders were unable to reach the modular home until after midnight — six hours after the accident. Crews had to cut a path through downed trees, poles and power lines to reach the scene, so there was “no chance” that Sarah could be saved, Radney told the Times.
Sarah’s 12-year-old brother “saw the whole thing,” he added. Her grandmother, who was sitting next to Sarah on the couch, suffered a punctured lung and a broken rib from the impact.
Radney told the Times that his father—Sarah’s grandfather—reassured him that the modular home could withstand winds of up to 150mph. Radney, who at first suggested his family evacuate, decided he would call every 15 minutes to one hour to check in.
He was outside Wednesday evening when the call came that something had come through the roof and hit Sarah and his mother. About 45 minutes later, the family got through the spotty cell service and learned Sarah had died.
Sarah had the week off from school for fall break and she and her brother had been staying at their grandparents’ house near a lake in Seminole County since Monday. They were supposed to return home Thursday morning.
The youngest of four until her father remarried and had two more daughters, Sarah loved being around her big family and made everything more fun, Roy and Amber Radney, Sarah’s stepmother, said in phone interviews with The Associated Press on Thursday.
“She was so beautiful and she smiled so much that day,” Amber Radney said. “She lit up everything.”
“It’s going to be pretty dark without her,” Roy Radney told the Times.
The Associated Press contributed to this report