PRESTONSBURG, Ky. (WYMT) – Update: May 30 — The Floyd County coroner’s office identified Michael W. Coleman, 61, of Pikeville as the man killed. We now know the name of the man killed in Wednesday’s storm damage in Prestonsburg.
Coleman leaves behind two children. He worked for Pike County schools for about 30 years, working his way up to maintenance director for the school system. He retired several years ago.
Coleman’s family was notified of his death, the coroner’s office said.
He was driving with his fiancee in the car when the crash happened. His fiancee was not physically harmed.
Update 10:30 p.m.
Officials are not yet releasing the name of the man killed Wednesday afternoon in Prestonsburg during severe weather.
What we do know is that it was a Pike County man who was driving with his fiancee when the roof was blown off a local business.
The roof fell directly onto his vehicle, killing him.
Officials tell us his fiancee was able to escape uninjured.
Severe thunderstorms were in effect Wednesday, but officials say they did not expect anything like this.
“The best way to describe it would be a ‘white-out’. And the rain, it was horizontal”, said Prestonsburg Mayor Les Stapleton.
People working on West Court Street say the storm’s winds were so strong, their business doors were opening and slamming shut.
“The power was flickering on and off. I come to our front door, our door was opening and closing, so I locked it. The trees, I mean this flagpole over here was about to fall over”, said Brittany Collins, who works nearby.
The roof blew off the old ‘Hock Shop’ building crashing into three parked cars and one that was being driven by the Pike County man.
“The roof was laying over the vehicle. We were able to get underneath the roof, stabilize that a little bit, break the windows to get in. We assessed the patient and he was obviously deceased”, said Celina Thomas, who is the Lieutenant Paramedic and Prestonsburg Fire Department.
Officials say the man’s fiancee was able to escape uninjured.
Now it is a matter of clearing the debris left by the storm, something the community has been volunteering to do.
“I’ve had calls from private individuals with equipment, I’ve had calls from businesses that rent equipment all trying to make it available to us so we can expedite clearing the town up as quick as possible”, said Stapleton.
People in the community are left in both shock and fear that something like this happened so close to home.
“I mean, it’s an act of God, I mean, that’s what happened”, said Collins. “We’re all just freaked out, but we’re praying for the people that, you know, got hurt during this.”
Officials say the building was being renovated when the storm blew the roof off.
We are told that the concern now is that building might not be structurally sound and could be in danger of collapsing.
West Court Street will remain closed until an engineer can look at the building.
Drivers in the area should know that Front Street is going to be reversed from West Graham Street to Court Street.
To access Front Street, turn down West Graham Street, then go to the end of Town Branch Bridge, turn right onto Front Street and go north toward Court Street.
Officials with the National Weather Service just confirmed that the storm was a downburst with peak wind gusts of 70 miles per hour.
One person dead after storm rips roof off in Prestonsburg
By Morgan Dads and Will Wright
PRESTONSBURG – One person died after a roof blew off a vacant building in downtown Prestonsburg Wednesday afternoon and crushed the victim’s vehicle.
The individual, who has not yet been identified, was driving through downtown when the roof fell on the vehicle, said Prestonsburg Mayor Les Stapleton.
The roof, about a hundred feet long, ripped clean off the building. It crushed three parked cars and completely blocked the roadway.
Another passenger in the vehicle was not injured, said Stapleton, who was one of the first to respond to the scene.
Celina Thomas, a lieutenant paramedic at the Prestonsburg Fire Department, said she and Stapleton crouched under the fallen roof to access the vehicle. They broke its windows to help the victim, but “he was obviously deceased,” Thomas said.
“It was quick in and out, the storm was, but it did a lot of damage,” Stapleton said.
Gusts reached at least 60 miles per hour, he said.
Stapleton said the city has had no previous complaints about the integrity of the building, formerly called the Hot Shop, but officials worry the brick structure is still at risk for collapse.
Pam Crider, who works at a Mountain Comprehensive Care office around the corner from the scene, said the rain and winds were so severe that parked cars rocked back and forth in the gusts. “I ain’t never seen rain like that in my life,” Crider said.
Other tenants of Crider’s building, who were on the second and third floors, said the building shook. They came downstairs and waited out the storm, Crider said.
When Crider walked out of her building and turned the corner, she saw a silver pickup truck that had been crushed by the fallen roof.
“I stepped around the corner and saw all that, and just about died,” she said.
Crider said Mountain Comprehensive Care had purchased the building with the fallen roof, near the area of Arnold Avenue and Court Street, and was working to remodel it.
The area of downtown affected by the fallen roof will remain closed until sometime Thursday, Stapleton said.
About 800 people were without power in Prestonsburg as of 5 p.m., Stapleton said. Prestonsburg, with a population of about 3,500, is the county seat of Floyd County.
AT&T, AEP, and city police and fire department officials were working to restore power and clear roadways.
Thomas asked residents to avoid downtown, and to remain in their homes during windstorms that were expected.
“It’s actually a miracle that we didn’t have more car wrecks during that 10 or 15 minutes of that whiteout,” Thomas said.