WAVERLY, Tenn. (WTVF) — Catastrophic flooding in Middle Tennessee has claimed more than 20 lives -- among them 7-month-old twins.
The two babies were torn from their father's arms as a surge of water swamped their apartment in Waverly in Humphreys County, Tennessee. Their two other siblings did survive.
"We woke up and water was filling our apartment," said Matthew Rigney.
He and the children's mother Danielle Hall said it happened in an instant at their complex, just 20 feet from Trace Creek.
The sudden surge of water was devastating.
"We heard a loud boom and it was the door busting in and water raging through our house," said Rigney.
The parents moved with their four children, twins Ryan and Rileighana, 19-month-old Brayla and 5-year-old Maleah, to a back bedroom, but the water kept rising.
That's when Hall decided to climb out the window.
"I was going for help... I was going to the store behind us. I didn't know it was flooded," she said.
The floodwaters knocked her off her feet and she barely managed to grab hold of a tree.
Rigney was still inside with the children as the water was rapidly rising. The final watermark in the apartment topped 6 feet.
"I had the twins in my arms, Brayla at my hip and Maleah around my neck. The water, when it hit us just pulled us under, all of us trapped underneath a bed," said Rigney.
In that instant, the twins were torn from his arms. It was several hours, after the water had receded, that their bodies were found still in the apartment.
"I wish there was something I could have done," Rigney said.
The twins were gone, but Rigney still had the two other children. With the help of a neighbor, they all made it to the roof.
Hall - still clinging to a tree nearby - watched it all happen.
"Through the trees, I saw him get on the roof, but I didn't see my babies and I screamed please tell me they are alive," Hall said.
She didn't know what happened until she was rescued by a boat.
"That's the one thing I dreaded telling my wife that I didn't have all four, like I failed them," said Rigney.
But first responders said not Rigney or anyone else could have prepared for the force of that flash flood or what the deadly waters would do.
"We never, ever imagined we would be burying babies who are 7-months-old," said Hall through tears.
The family moved into the apartment just two weeks ago. A GoFundMe account has been created to help the family, with nearly $60,000 raised so far.
Funeral arrangements have also been set for the twins. A visitation is planned for Wednesday from 3 to 6 p.m. and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with service to follow at West Harpeth Funeral Home in Nashville.