The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Spotsylvania storm victims recovering after microburst
BY LINDLEY ESTES
Heath Mullins and Michelle Smith were making sure everyone in the Cheer Fusion All-Stars gym at Four-Mile Fork was inside a secure interior room when the roof fell in.
They were trapped outside.
Recovery for the two storm victims is coming along slowly, but both are in stable condition and are expected to leave Mary Washington Hospital in a few days.
Mullins suffered two broken toes, a broken ankle, a broken tibia, a broken knee, two broken vertebrae, nerve damage in a wrist and severe bruising to the muscle in one shoulder.
Mullins and another parent were helping children into the interior room when a door blew inside the building and blocked his access to the room.
“It was like in an Indiana Jones movie,” he said.
“Then the roof caved in and the wall came at me. When I saw the wall coming down I thought I was going to die. I thought, ‘This is it,’ and a 30-foot brick wall came down on my head.”
Mullins’ wife and daughter were in the room he was ushering people into.
“They came out and saw me covered in blood on the ground. It freaked them out,” he said.
Mullins said there was nothing extraordinary about what he did.
“All I did was what I was supposed to do,” he said.
His wife said he did what came naturally.
“He was being a gentleman,” she said.
Mullins’ recovery won’t be finished once he leaves the hospital, though.
He said doctors told him he’ll be in a wheelchair for at least a month.
“I’d like to be able to walk,” he said. “Every extremity has something wrong.”
Smith broke an ankle and a couple of ribs and has a partially collapsed lung.
“I was standing near the door leading into the lobby to make sure no one had left,” she said.
Smith said that she remembers hard rain and hail against the building, followed by a window blowing out. Then a door was ripped from the building and Smith was thrown into the lobby before the roof collapsed.
Connie Allen, owner of Cheer Fusion, said they tried to leave the secure room when they realized Smith and Mullins were missing, but the hail and wind were too strong.
After the storm passed, Allen said, Mullins crawled out from the debris but Smith was missing until she was pulled out of the rubble by police.
Allen said that Smith’s son Nicholas was also outside of the secure room when the roof caved in, but he escaped injury by jumping over a counter and hiding underneath it.
Smith, who works at the Pentagon, said she is anxious to get home and then back to work.
Allen was among those retrieving what the police salvaged at the site Tuesday. She said they collected banners, trophies, purses and cellphones from the rubble.
She also said she wanted to collect prizes from a raffle they had Sunday night.
“It ended 15 minutes before the storm,” she said. “There was a 42-inch television that was crushed, plus gift cards and Redskins tickets.”
She was accompanied by some of the cheerleaders.
Meghan Thatcher, 13, said: “I’m really happy they’re OK. After the fact when everyone is safe, you look at it and say, ‘Wow, this is our building.’” (See related VIDEO).
Twelve-year-old Cierra Davis added: “It’s our second home. I left my shirt in there. It’s still in there. My mom asks why I leave stuff there, and I say because it’s my second home.”
Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976