The family of an 11-year-old Georgia girl killed in Hurricane Michael is trying to do right by her, but is facing tough odds.
Sarah Radney died, according to authorities, after debris from a carport crashed into the home where she was staying in Seminole County. As of Thursday night, she was the state’s lone reported death attributed to Michael.
“It’s rough, I’ve never lost a kid,” said her father, Roy Radney. “One minute I’m OK, and the next minute I’m falling apart. And I’ve got five (other) kids to coach through this. I don’t know what I’m doing.”
Sarah Radney’s loved ones have started an online fundraising effort to help pay for her funeral. Kim Hendrix, the child’s aunt, who moved from South Georgia to Mississippi a couple of years ago, started the GoFundMe account.
The accident, which happened in the midst of the storm, left Sarah injured and out of reach of rescuers for several hours. Her father, who was in Thomasville with his other children, ached to rush to her side, but others stopped him for his own safety.
“It’s just so hard being a father two counties away while your child is dying,” Radney said Thursday night to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
He doesn’t blame rescuers for not going out into the teeth of the storm. “When people get these damn warnings, they need to listen. If you stay, that’s what they really mean: No one is coming.”
Hendrix said Sarah loved her family, was in advanced classes at a school in Cairo, and enjoyed being in a band. Sarah played the trumpet, her dad said. And she would call Hendrix every Sunday to make sure that her aunt picked her up for church, Radney said.
Sarah and her 12-year-old brother were staying with their grandparents near Lake Seminole for fall break when Michael hit the area hard.
“We knew Michael was coming, but we had no idea it was going to be like this,” Radney said.
Radney said he called Sarah and her brother every 30 minutes or so during the storm. But then the cell signal got spotty.
He told Sarah to go to her grandma’s closet and put a mattress over them if she was scared.
“That’s the last advice I’d given her,” Radney said.
He pointed out that his son, who is his only male child, witnessed everything.
“He went through a lot worse than I did,” Radney said. “He’s definitely a new hero of mine.”
Radney, a welder, said any assistance would mean a great deal to the family because he expects to be out of work for a while.
Hendrix said that Radney, her brother, “does a great job” giving his children what they need.
By Friday evening, the online fundraising effort had brought in more than $19,000 from more than 415 people.
“Unfortunately, the family is going through a tough time and while money cannot heal or make the situation a happy one, the funds will assist the family in working through some tough battles in the coming days and months,” the GoFundMe narrative reads.
Because of widespread power outages across Georgia, Sarah’s body was taken to Dothan, Ala., Hendrix said.
She said Radney will travel to Dothan to take care of arrangements to get the body back — a tough task, considering fuel shortages and travel difficulties in South Georgia in the wake of the storm.