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
“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.