By Mitchell Willetts and
Mike StunsonORDER REPRINT→
A Kentucky family was left shaken, bloodied, bruised and in grief after a tornado ripped them from a Dawson Springs home and sent them flying.
More than 48 hours after tornadoes touched down across western Kentucky over the weekend, the family said their baby died at a hospital. The baby, whose name is Oaklynn, initially survived while being strapped in a car seat.
Her family — parents Jackie and Doug Koon and their three children — took shelter from the tornado at her mother’s house, she said in a Facebook post.
The devastating series of tornadoes between Dec. 10 and 11 killed at least 80 people, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported. That number is expected to reach 100 as search efforts continue.
Gov. Andy Beshear called it the “most severe tornado event in Kentucky’s history.”
While Kentucky is the hardest hit, tornadoes also touched down in Arkansas, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.
The Koon family huddled together in the bathroom, knowing a twister was tearing a path of destruction toward them. They were“thinking we were going to die,” Jackie Koon said. And then it arrived.
“We all went flying and ended up way on the other end of our neighbor’s house,” she said.
Despite the tornado pulling the house apart, every member of the family initially survived.
“Whenever it subsided and I looked up, my 4-year-old little boy was just standing there screaming for daddy,” Doug Koon told MSNBC in an interview.
With the tornado passed, he quickly began searching through the rubble, guided by crying and moaning, gathering his scattered family back together one at a time, some half-buried by debris, he told the outlet.
“It’s the most traumatic thing I’ve ever been through,” he said. “I felt like I was helpless in protecting my kids against it.”
Doug Koon found their baby girl, Oaklynn, out in the open, in her car seat, which they strapped her into in hopes it would give her just a little bit more protection if the worst happened, he told MSNBC.
That decision likely prolonged Oaklynn’s life, Jackie Koon said in a post.
But their struggle wasn’t over.
Oaklynn’s condition worsened overnight and she was life-flighted to a hospital, where she was intubated after possibly suffering a stroke, a post said.
Machines were keeping Oaklynn alive, as she did not have brain activity due to severe head swelling, her parents said in a post late Sunday. Early Monday, Oaklynn died.
“I’m in shock, my heart feels absolutely shattered,” the parents said.
Meanwhile, the tornado destroyed Jackie Koon’s mother’s home.
“Hold your loved ones tight,” the post said. “I never imagined having to go [through] something like this in life.”
This story was originally publishedDecember 12, 2021 2:31 PM.