Tennessee parents recall flooding that killed 7-month-old twins

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Tennessee parents recall flooding that killed 7-month-old twins

The parents of 7-month-old twins killed in flash flooding in Tennessee say they had very little time to react to the devastating surge of rainfall that swept away two of their children.

The twins, Ryan and Riliegh, were torn from their father’s grasp inside their apartment Saturday in Waverly, near McEwen, where 17.02 inches of rain fell, shattering the state’s 24-hour record by nearly 4 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

“We woke up and water was filling our apartment,” the twins’ father, Matt Rigney, told WTVF.

Ryan and Riliegh flood deaths
The twins, Ryan and Riliegh, were found lifeless in the house as the water receded.
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The family — who moved into their apartment some 20 feet from Trace Creek just two weeks ago — took their four children, including 19-month-old Brayla and 5-year-old Maleah, to a back bedroom, but the deluge inside quickly worsened, prompting the children’s mother, Danielle Hall, to climb out of a window.

“I was going for help,” Hall told the station. “I was going to the store behind us. I didn’t know it was flooded.”

Hall was knocked off her feet by the floodwater, but managed to hold onto a tree for hours until she was saved, WTVF reported.

The family had just moved into a house near Trace Creek two weeks ago.
The family had just moved into a house near Trace Creek two weeks ago.
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Rigney, still inside with his four children, said the water was continuing to rise in the apartment, topping off at 6 feet.

“I had the twins in my arms, Brayla at my hip and Maleah around my neck,” Rigney recalled. “The water, when it hit us just pulled us under, all of trapped underneath a bed.”

The twins were ripped from Rigney’s arms. Their lifeless bodies were later found inside as the water receded, WVTF reported.

Dustin Shadownes, of Ashland City Fire Department, searches a creek for missing persons along with a cadaver dog, Monday.
Dustin Shadownes, of Ashland City Fire Department, searches a creek for missing persons along with a cadaver dog on Monday.
AP Photo/John Amis

“I wish there was something I could have done,” Rigney said.

Rigney managed to get to a roof with his other two children with the help of a neighbor. Hall, meanwhile, watched the entire ordeal while clinging to the tree, she said.

“Through the tree, I saw him get on the roof, but I didn’t see my babies and I screamed, ‘Please tell me they are alive,’” Hall recalled.

Rigney said he “dreaded” telling Hall that he couldn’t save all four children, “like I failed them,” he told WTVF.

Hall told WZTV that the historic flooding was the “scariest thing” she’s ever experienced.

“They was our life,” Hall said of her twins. “They was so happy. They made our life complete.”

Danielle Hall
Danielle Hall realized her partner did not have the twins when she spotted him atop a roof with their other children.
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At least 22 people were killed in the one-day record rainfall. More than 90 people stayed in shelters Sunday, according to American Red Cross officials, and authorities were searching debris Monday to find any missing people, Waverly police said.

“I’m reasonably sure that we are less than 10 right now that we are truly not sure about the whereabouts of, or that we don’t think we’ll resolve fairly easily,” Waverly Police Chief Grant Gillespie said.

Vehicles are seen piled up next to a house destroyed by flooding on in Waverly, Tennessee.
Vehicles are seen piled up next to a house destroyed by flooding in Waverly, Tennessee.
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

An online fundraiser set up for the family has surpassed $82,000 as of Tuesday. Funeral services for the twins have been set for Wednesday and Thursday in Nashville, WTVF reported.

With Post wires

Furniture after the flooding
More than 90 people stayed in shelters Sunday, according to American Red Cross officials.
Josie Norris /The Tennessean via AP

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