GAFFNEY, SC (WSPA) – One person has died after a tree fell on a Gaffney home during storms Thursday afternoon.
Six people were in the home on East Jefferies Street when the tree fell shortly before 5:00 p.m. Four were able to escape through the back of the home, according to the Gaffney Fire Department.
The Cherokee County Coroner said two people were sitting on a bench on the porch of the home when the tree fell.
Severe storms were moving through the Upstate at the time.
The falling tree caused the roof of the porch to collapse, trapping a 78-year-old woman and her 58-year-old daughter, Phyliss Knighten.
The coroner said 78-year-old Thelma Jordan Carroll died from her injuries at the scene.
Neighbor, Willie Mae Coleman, saw the entire thing.
“Everything happened so fast. I was looking and then this tree fell on them. Fell on the house and they was trapped underneath there,” said Coleman.
Coleman says she’s been friends with her neighbors for 25 years. She says she spoke with them right before the storm.
“I’m very emotional. I’m really upset. You know what I’m saying? But I’m trying to be strong for everybody,” she said.
She says as soon as she saw the tree come down, she began making calls for help.
“They didn’t even have time to get out from under there, it happened so fast. They was sitting there on a little bench on the porch,” said Coleman.
It took firefighters and rescuers more than two and a half hours to free the daughter from the debris. She was taken to Spartanburg Medical Center for her injuries.
“The second person that went to the hospital does have a very, very good chance at surviving,” said Fire Chief, Jamie Caggiano.
“The tree was rotten on the inside near its base which weakened it with the heavy wind gusts,” said Coroner Dennis Fowler. “This is an absolute tragedy and our prayers are with this family.”
Caggiano says crews had to be very methodical when trying to cut the tree.
“One wrong cut with a chainsaw, one wrong move and the whole tree comes down even farther, injures rescuers or the patients even more,” he said.
Crews from Gaffney Fire Department, Cowpens Fire Department, and a Spartanburg towing company worked to free the victims.
Coleman is now asking her community for prayers.
“Everybody has got to keep praying because anything could happen at any given time,” she said.