Tree falls on Cherokee mobile home, kills 22-year-old in his bed

The victim was in his room inside a home at the Eastgate community off Bells Ferry Road, according to the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office.
The victim was in his room inside a home at the Eastgate community off Bells Ferry Road, according to the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office.

Credit: CHRISTINA MATACOTTA FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: CHRISTINA MATACOTTA FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

A 22-year-old man was killed in his bed early Thursday when powerful winds ripped an oak tree from its roots and sent it crashing onto a Cherokee County mobile home, according to investigators.

The impact sent the sleeping man and his bed through the wall of the trailer and into the side yard, neighbors at the Eastgate community off Bells Ferry Road told AJC.com.

The death was believed to be the first in metro Atlanta as Tropical Storm Zeta rolled through before sunrise. Two others died Thursday afternoon in Gwinnett County.

ExploreZeta’s winds topple trees, leave thousands without power

Shortly before 6 a.m., deputies were called to the mobile home and found the large oak tree resting on one end of it, according to Cherokee sheriff’s spokesman Capt. Jay Baker. The victim, identified as Franklin Whyte, had recently rented a room in the home, neighbors said.

Three other adults and a child who were on the other side of the trailer escaped unharmed, Baker said.

Neighbors were shocked and devastated by the strength of the deadly storm, including Brenda Phillips, who lives next door to where the man was killed. Phillips said she has been in the same home for three decades.

“Never have I seen anything — anything — like this. If it had fallen that way, it could have been me,” the 75-year-old said, pointing to her trailer. “I am so lucky. Thank God.”

William Holden and his wife were listening to the storm early Thursday when they heard what sounded like a freight train rip through their mobile home park. Holden, 52, heard a loud crash that shook his entire trailer.

It was the tree crashing into the home across the street.

Credit: CHRISTINA MATACOTTA FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

The victim, identified as Franklin Whyte, had recently rented a room in the home, neighbors said.

Credit: CHRISTINA MATACOTTA FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

“As loud as this storm was, we heard this blood-curdling scream that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up,” he said.

Holden said emergency crews had to cut the tree off the man’s body. As neighbors looked on in disbelief, one man took the young man’s blanket and used it to shield his blood-soaked pillow from news cameras.

The man’s death remained under investigation Thursday afternoon.

— Please return to AJC.com for updates.

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