Grandfather's desperate attempt to save preschooler from West Virginia floods fails

A vehicle rests on the in a stream after a heavy rain near White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Friday, June 24, 2016. ( Justin Michaels/The Weather Channel via AP)

As heavy storms have swept across West Virginia, roads have turned into rivers, cars have been swallowed whole - and a preschooler who jumped into floodwaters in a backyard was carried away by the current.

Authorities in Jackson County, West Virginia, said the boy, who is believed to be about 4, was playing in a backyard Thursday in Ravenswood, a small town along the Ohio River, when he either fell or jumped into the fast-moving water, according to ABC affiliate WCHS.

The boy's grandfather tried to grab him, police said, but the current was simply too strong.

"He saw him; he chased him," Jackson County Sheriff Tony Boggs told The Washington Post. "He got close to him - and he may have even grabbed him.

"But he couldn't get him out."

Boggs said the boy was swept into a small but rushing stream that runs into Sandy Creek and eventually dumps into the Ohio River.

Search-and-rescue crews from several surrounding cities started to search for the boy late Thursday afternoon, but had to halt their operation for a short time as another severe storm passed. They stopped when it got too dark.

"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."

Officials from Ripley Fire & 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.

Authorities said they resumed the search for the boy early Friday morning.

Earlier this week, the National Weather Service warned that some destructive and potentially deadly thunderstorms - called a derecho - might develop Wednesday and move across a corridor from Iowa to West Virginia.

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.

On Thursday, West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin issued a state of emergency for counties across the state.

"This severe storm even has caused rockslides, mudslides and flooding, and has damaged homes, businesses, roads and bridges," he wrote in a statement.

NBC News reported that at least four people have been killed in the storms that have swept across the state.

Another boy, 8-year-old Emanual Williams, was found unresponsive Thursday hours after he slipped and fell into in the 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 tried to save him, but he plummeted into 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.


Author Information:

Lindsey Bever is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.

(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Lindsey Bever



Recent Stories You Might Have Missed