Flood believed responsible for deaths of Warren centenarian, 2 others

George Hunter and Tony Briscoe
The Detroit News

Warren — A 100-year-old woman — a Tiger fan, proud family matriarch and game show aficionada — was among three Metro Detroiters whose deaths are believed to be linked to Monday’s epic flooding.

Julia Sarno phoned her 72-year-old daughter Monday to tell her the basement of her condominium on Villa Pointe Drive, near Schoenherr and I-696 was flooding, Warren Deputy Police Commissioner Louis Galasso said.

“The daughter said, ‘Please don’t do anything. We’ll take a look and assess it tomorrow,’ ” Galasso said.

On Tuesday, the daughter became concerned after her mother failed to respond to several calls, so she and her husband drove to the condo. When they went inside, they called out for her several times, Galasso said, but there was no answer.

When Sarno’s son-in-law ventured down the basement stairs, he found her body, submerged in three or four feet of water.

The centenarian, who still lived on her own, enjoyed watching game shows and spending summer days in the cool shade of her garage, bragging to neighbors about her family.

“She was very friendly,” said neighbor Joanna Bradt, 68. “I would see her outside and I’d go across to street to visit. We’d sit in her garage and talk about things; mostly her kids and grandkids.

“She loved watching baseball — that, and her game shows.”

While Galasso said it is not certain that Sarno died of drowning — that determination won’t be made until results of an autopsy are issued — “there were some consistencies to indicate death by drowning, such as the way the body was positioned.”

Sarno also had abrasions on her arms that appear to be from flailing, Galasso said.

“Her daughter would call her on the phone every day, and every Tuesday and Thursday, she’d come over and take her shopping,” Bradt said. “I saw her pull up Tuesday, open the garage door and go inside. Then I saw a fire truck, and police cars, and the ambulance. I didn’t know what was going on, until I found out from the news.”

Sarno’s relatives did not return phone calls Wednesday.

Monday’s flood, which damaged thousands of homes and left cars submerged under several feet of water, also is believed to be responsible for the deaths of two others with connections to Warren, which was among the hardest hit Metro Detroit communities.

A 68-year-old Warren man, whose name has not yet been made public, apparently died while pushing his car on a flooded Oak Park street, according to the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office. Further details were unavailable, and the cause of death was pending Wednesday.

And on Monday night, a 31-year-old woman had a seizure at Buddy’s Pizza in Warren as the pizzeria began to flood with about 2 feet of water and patrons scrambled onto tables. She went into cardiac arrest and firefighters took her away by stretcher. She was later pronounced dead at a local hospital. Her name has not been released by authorities.


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