A two-year-old baby girl has died two days after her parents tried in vain to protect her and her siblings from a deadly tornado that ripped through Kentucky by hiding in the bathroom.
Oaklynn Koon suffered a stroke, a swollen head and injuries to her neck when the twister hit. Her parents had strapped her into her car seat in the bathroom, put her brothers in the bathtub and covered themselves in pillows but were thrown from the Dawson Springs home and onto the other side of their neighbor’s house.
On Monday, little Oaklynn succumbed to her injuries, parents Doug and Jackie Koon said on Facebook.
‘At least I know who will be watching over you up there for me. My dad. God this doesn’t seem real,’ they wrote.
Oaklynn is one of 74 people confirmed dead in Friday’s storm, and more than 100 people are still missing.
During a press briefing Monday afternoon, Governor Andy Beshear and First Lady Britainy Beshear addressed the state and their efforts to help Kentuckians displaced by the storms.
Beshear, who choked up again, confirmed that the death toll had risen by ten since his morning press conference. He said at least 109 people remain unaccounted for.
At least 448 National Guard members are assisting with rescue and recovery efforts and FEMA is already on the ground helping displaced families.
‘I believe this is the most rapid response from the federal government in the history of the United States of America and we need it and we are really grateful for it,’ Beshear said.
He added that Kentucky continues to rally together and help each other during the tragedy: ‘This is one state, people that love one another.’
The governor also ordered flags be flown to at half-staff until next Monday in remembrance of the lives lost and asked other states to follow suit.
Britainy, through her tears, announced a statewide toy drive that aims to help families in need ahead of the holiday season.
‘As Kentuckians, we come together when times are tough. We look out for each other and no matter the challenges we face, we will get through it together,’ she said.
‘Merry Christmas, Kentucky. Let’s make it special for these kids and families who have been through so much and show them that we’re going to be with them every step of the way.’
‘I’m really sorry,’ an emotional Beshear said during a press briefing Monday morning, addressing those still searching for their loved ones.
‘You’re not supposed to lose people like this, and to not know and not have the information has got to make it that much harder.’
While noting the toll from the deadly storm was lower than he initially feared, Beshear said he expects the toll to increase, possibly to 80, as searchers continue to sift through the rubble.
He noted that the numbers will continue to fluctuate as officials search and ‘it may be weeks before we have counts on both deaths and levels of destruction.’
‘Sometimes they have, thank god, gone down, other times they’ve gone up,’ he said, adding that ‘undoubtedly, there will be more’ fatalities.
The Koon family ran over to Jackie’s mother’s house, where their eldest son was staying, before the storm hit.
Doug shared how they huddled together in the bathroom with their two sons laying in the bathtub with pillows over them, and Oaklynn strapped into her car seat – figuring that would give her the most protection.
‘Nothing is… scarier than knowing a tornado is heading your way and hearing your kids freaking out, and thinking we are going to die,’ Jackie wrote on Facebook following the ordeal.
‘It’s the most traumatic thing I’ve ever been through,’ he told MSNBC on Sunday as his daughter battled for her life. ‘I felt like I was helpless in protecting my kids against it.’
When the tornado finally hit her mother’s house in Dawson Springs, Jackie said, ‘We all went flying and ended up on the other side of our neighbor’s house.’
As the storm subsided, Doug told MSNBC he looked up from where he landed and saw his four-year-old son standing there and screaming ‘daddy.’ The boy had a cut on his head, Doug said, and it was bleeding.
He said he tried to stop the bleeding as he searched for his other family members through the rubble, guided by screaming and moaning.
Doug said he tried to stop everyone’s bleeding and get them to safety before his mother-in-law’s house was completely destroyed, and then rushed his family to the hospital.
He said his four-year-old son had to have a CT scan to ensure the brain bleed does not get worse, and overnight Oaklynn’s, condition worsened.
Jackie posted on Facebook on Sunday that the doctors at the local hospital ran some tests on Oaklynn and ‘they think she has injured her neck veins, which may have caused her to have a stroke.’
Doug said ‘machines were keeping her alive’ and that her ‘head swelled really bad’.
She was being incubated and transferred to another hospital.
‘Hold your loved ones tight,’ Jackie wrote. ‘I never imagined having to go [through] something like this in life.’
Oaklynn passed away on Monday morning.
President Joe Biden announced Monday he will be traveling to Kentucky on Wednesday to survey the damage.