The mysterious death of a high school athlete who recently helped his fellow Eastern Kentucky residents clean up the historic…
The mysterious death of a high school athlete who was helping his fellow Eastern Kentucky residents clean up after a historic flood the other day has added a new layer of grief to the tragedy.
On Wednesday, Aaron “Mick” Crawford was listed as the 38th person to die in flash flooding that swept away homes and engulfed communities last month in the Appalachian region. The teenager’s death is a great loss, said Perry County Sheriff Joe Engle, his friend and pastor.
“He was just a joy to be around,” the sheriff said Wednesday.
The last time Engle communicated with his 18-year-old friend, Crawford asked where he could help victims as the floodwaters rose.
For three days, the strong high school football player and wrestler helped with flood relief before suddenly falling ill. He died late last week and was officially added to the flood-related death toll on Wednesday.
Crawford’s death came days after he fell ill. His mother, Rhonda Crawford, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that her son “went into cardiac arrest.”
The family still does not know what caused Crawford’s death, according to the media.
The kid, who loved superheroes — even creating his own costumes — and aspired to become a conservation officer, immediately wanted to help others when rain lashed the region, Engle said by phone Wednesday. Last month’s flooding dumped 8 to 10.5 inches (20.3 to 26.7 centimeters) of rain in just 48 hours, unleashing floodwaters that caused widespread destruction.
“As soon as we realized there was a major disaster here, he texted me,” the sheriff said. “I’m not sure if the rain had stopped by the time he messaged me on Facebook. He said, “I want to know where to go. I want to know where to help.”
“And that was the last time I spoke to him.”
While visiting eastern Kentucky on Wednesday, Gov. Andy Beshear said the teenager’s death was added to the flood’s death toll. A relief fund established by the governor for the affected region will pay for the funeral expenses of the Crawford family, as it has for the families of other victims. Beshear said Kentuckians are grieving for the teenager and “for each of the 38 people who died.”
Meanwhile, Kentucky lawmakers are crafting legislation to help the devastated region. Asked Wednesday about progress on the measure, state Senate President Robert Stivers said: “We’re getting there.” The bill is being circulated among lawmakers in anticipation of a special legislative session that Beshear intends to call, likely within the next month.
“Whenever he’s ready, we’ll be ready to go,” House Speaker David Mead said Wednesday.
On Monday, President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden saw some of the devastation firsthand when they visited the region to meet with families and first responders. The President said the nation has a responsibility to help all its people, saying the Federal Government will provide support until residents get back on their feet.
As the cleaning continues, so does the mourning. Crawford’s funeral will be held on Thursday.
Crawford, who was known as “Mick,” lived in the town of Jeff in Perry County. Engle, who was a youth pastor at Blair Memorial Baptist Church, said Crawford was witty, funny and “strong as a bear.” Angle recalled that Crawford sometimes used his wrestling techniques on him until his mother told him, “Take it easy, you’re going to hurt the preacher.”
But he also took his Bible study seriously, the sheriff said.
“He was way beyond his years when it came to his spiritual side,” Angle said. “He was kind of a wise, old spiritual man. He knew his Bible. He went to Sunday School, but he could probably teach some of these Sunday School classes. That’s how knowledgeable he was in the Bible.”
Crawford’s family told him that after three days of flood relief, Crawford returned home exhausted and complaining that his arms were heavy, the sheriff said. He was eventually placed on a ventilator, according to media reports.
Engle will speak at the funeral, but another pastor will officiate. Engle said he didn’t think he would be able to “go through the service and last without crying and not being able to get a message across. That’s how close we were.”
“He’s a superhero to me,” Angle said.
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