Irma claims dozens of lives across U.S., Caribbean
The scope and scale of misery caused by Irma continues to grow, including its human toll. Irma, at one point the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the open Atlantic, has claimed the lives of dozens of people across the Caribbean and southeastern United States.
Victims include two women in Havana, Cuba, who died when a balcony fell on a bus in which they were riding. A Florida jailhouse guard and sheriff’s deputy died after their vehicles collided. A 2-year-old child on Barbuda died when his body was swept away after his home’s roof ripped off and the structure filled with water. A Barbados teen died while surfing as the massive hurricane churned hundreds of miles away.
Here are brief portraits of some of Irma’s victims:
Joseph Ossman, 53, Sebring
Julie Bridges, 42, Wauchula
Ossman, a sergeant with the Hardee Correctional Institute, was heading to work Sunday morning and Bridges, a Hardee County sheriff’s deputy, was going home after the night shift when their vehicles collided head-on, according to a Florida Highway Patrol release.
Ossman’s car ended up on a grass shoulder, while Bridges’ patrol car came to a rest in a nearby intersection. It wasn’t immediately clear which vehicle crossed into the oncoming lane.
Lt. Gregory Bueno confirmed the area was already being affected by rain and other hurricane-related conditions at the time of the crash, but its official cause remains under investigation.
Brian Buwalda, 51, Winter Park
Buwalda died Monday after apparently being electrocuted by a downed power line, police said.
Winter Park officers responded to reports of a man lying in the roadway and determined Buwalda was dead at the scene. A medical examiner will determine an official cause of death, but police say it appears to be accidental.
Heidi Zehner, 50, Orlando
Zehner was driving on a state highway near Orlando on Sunday evening, when she lost control and crashed.
Her SUV struck a guardrail. The cause of death was under investigation.
The accident came a couple hours after Irma made landfall 200 miles to the south in Marco Island.
Wilfredo Hernandez, 55, Tampa
Hernandez died when the chain saw he was using to clear trees in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma became entangled in a branch, causing it to kick up and cut his carotid artery.
Hillsborough County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Cristal Nunez said in a news release that Hernandez was clearing trees in Tampa on Monday afternoon when the accident occurred.
Nunez said deputies used a harness to lower the man from the tree, but he died at the scene.
Charles Saxon, 57, Calhoun Falls
Saxon died Monday after being struck by a tree limb as he was cleaning up limbs and debris outside his home, according to Abbeville County Coroner Ronnie Ashley.
An autopsy is planned for Saxon, who died at the scene.
Officials say it’s the first reported death in the state related to Irma.
Zander Venezia, 16
Venezia, a professional surfer, died last Tuesday while surfing large swells generated by the hurricane. He was surfing on the island’s east coast when he drowned as the storm churned several hundred miles away, according to family friend and surfing instructor Alan Burke.
Witnesses said Venezia was caught up in a monster wave that pushed and held him under water. Burke said it was a freak accident that occurred under blue skies and ideal surfing conditions.
In August, Venezia won North Carolina’s Rip Curl Grom Search surfing competition for his age group.
Carl Junior Francis, 2
Carl, who had just turned 2 on Aug. 17, was swept to his death after the storm ripped the roof off the family’s house and water came in. The child’s mother, Stevet Jeremiah, fled with her husband and Carl’s 4-year-old brother but was unable to save the toddler.
“Where they were staying, the roof (was) blown off from the house and then water started getting in the house,” said Sgt. James Thomas, second in command at the Barbuda police station. “They were trying to get out of the house when apparently the child got loose and got trapped in the water.”
The child’s body was later taken to the nearby island of Antigua for an autopsy.
María del Carmen Arregoitía Cardona, 27, Bauta
Yolendis Castillo Martínez, 27, Santiago de Cuba
The women were riding in a bus in Havana that was crushed when a fourth-floor balcony collapsed onto the vehicle, according to an official statement released by the Cuban government.
Osvaldo Abreu Barroso, 71, Havana
Barroso was electrocuted while trying to take down his television antenna. He fell and came in contact with a live wire, according to the government statement.
Alberto Francisco Flores García, 77, Havana
Garcia was struck by an electric pole toppled by the wind as he walked down a street, according to the government statement.
Roydis Valdés Pérez, 54, Havana
Walfrido Antonio Valdés Pérez, 51, Granma
The brothers were killed when the home of Roydis Valdes Perez partially collapsed in the storm, according to the government statement.
Nieves Martínez Burgaleta, 89, Plaza de la Revolucion
Burgaleta was found floating in flood waters in front of his inundated apartment building, according to the government statement.
Alberto Manzano Martínez, 65, Matanzas
Orlando Torres Cruz, 53, Bolivia
Edilberto Cabrera Rodríguez, 64, Esmeralda Camaguey
Government officials said the homes of all three men collapsed, and added they “did not observe the norms of conduct” by “refusing evacuation.”
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