A distressing photo captured the final moments of country star Loretta Lynn’s ranch foreman clinging to a beam on her flooded property moments before he was swept to his death by the fast-rising waters.
Wayne Spears was seen with his arms around the beam at Lynn’s ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, on Saturday after being caught by rapidly rising floodwaters while checking on the ranch’s animals.
But tragically, Spears died after the structure he was clinging to washed away moments later, according to local news site the Tennessee Holler.
‘He’s out at his barn and next thing you know, he goes from checking animals in the barn to hanging on in the barn to people seeing him floating down the creek. And that´s how fast it had come up,’ Humphrey’s County Sheriff Chris Davis said.
‘Wayne´s just one of those guys, he just does everything for everybody, if there´s a job to do,’ said his friend Michael Pate, who met Spears at the ranch 15 years ago.
Lynn herself is safe from the floods, which were the worst ever to have swept through her ranch. She shared a tribute to Spears Sunday, writing: ‘With the heaviest of hearts we are saddened to report that our beloved foreman Wayne Spears did not survive being swept up in the flood waters. Wayne has been a family friend to the Lynns and a fixture to the Ranch for decades and we are all devastated by his passing.
‘The Ranch will never be the same without him but he will always be remembered for his ready smile, kind heart, and willingness to go the extra mile for everyone around him.
This distressing photo shows Loretta Lynn’s ranch foreman Wayne Spears moments before he was swept to his death during a flood that hit the singer’s property in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, on Saturday
County star Lynn, pictured left with Spears, was unharmed by the floods, but paid a touching tribute to her ‘irreplaceable’ rancher in a Facebook post announcing his death Sunday
‘Eventually we’ll rebuild our community, our ranch, our lives and our homes. but only God could build a man like Wayne Spears. There’s just no replacing that.
‘May he rest in peace.’
The property is run by Lynn’s granddaughter Tayla, and offers camping, fishing, hiking as well as an RV park.
Spears is one of at least 22 people confirmed to have died, with 40 still missing, after heavy flooding hit parts of Tennessee on Saturday.
Also killed were seven-month-old twins Ryan and Rieligh Rigney, who were pulled away from their father in a deluge when floodwaters swept through their apartment complex, NewsChannel5 reports.
Angie Cason, the twins’ grandmother, told the station how the twins were at home with their mother, father and their five-year-old and 19-month-old siblings, when water smashed through their home on Saturday morning.
The mother of the four children was swept away in the torrent but managed to make it to safety, while their father grabbed the twins and their two siblings.
Swept away in the waters were seven-months-old twins Ryan and Rileigh Rigney (pictured) whose bodies were recovered by authorities after they were pulled from their father
The Hardin County Fire Department of Savannah, Tennessee, posts a photo of damage after flooding due to heavy rainfall
The Nashville Fire Department posts aerial photos of massive flooding in Tennessee after heavy rainfall that led to severe flooding
The Humphreys County town of McEwen, was pummeled with 17 inches of rain on Saturday, prompting water rescues, road closures
All that remains are debris after homes were swept away by severe flash floods in Savannah on Saturday
Flood damage seen with trash and fallen trees as the rain overflowed creeks in Waverly, Tennessee
But despite his best efforts, the twins were torn from his arms, and they went under the water and disappeared, their grandmother said.
Their bodies were recovered by rescue workers later on Saturday, Humphreys County Sheriff said.
The Humphreys County town of McEwen, located about 50 miles west of Nashville, was pummeled with 17 inches of rain on Saturday, prompting water rescues, road closures, and communications disruptions, AP reported.
That rainfall total smashed the region’s 24-hour record of 9.45 inches from 2010, according to the National Weather Service Nashville.
A Hardin County Fire Department worker looks at the devastation caused by heavy rains on Saturday in Savannah
People stand on the closed Little Blue Creek Road bridge that leads to Waverly following heavy rainfall Saturday in Tennessee
Water covers Sam Hollow Road following heavy rainfall on Saturday that has left more than 40 people missing and 17 dead
Homes, roads, and pieces of personal property were left damaged and strewn around Waverly
The catastrophic flooding washed away homes and rural roads, leaving 22 dead and more than 40 people missing, Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis said.
Sheriff Davis said no one should travel unless absolutely necessary, especially in Waverly. He also advised people to check on elderly and shut-ins.
McEwen and the nearby city of Waverly was facing a ‘dire, catastrophic situation,’ National Weather Service meteorologist Krissy Hurley told The Tennessean. ‘People are trapped in their homes and have no way to get out.’
Muddy floodwater rises on a fence post along Little Blue Creek Road following heavy rainfall on Saturday
Flash flooding in Tennessee on Saturday left severe property damage, destroying a car in the aftermath of extreme flooding in Tennessee.
Flash flooding in Savannah, Tennessee was so severe it overturned a car, leaving it damaged as more than 40 people in the state remain missing
Heavy flooding in several Middle Tennessee counties on Saturday prompted water rescues, road closures, and communications disruptions, with several people reported missing
Vehicles are seen submerged in the water at Trace Creek in Waverly
Tennessee Emergency Management Agency declared a Level 3 State of Emergency in the state. The State Emergency Operations Center has been activated in Nashville to support local requests and respond as a result of catastrophic flooding in Middle Tennessee, WSMV-TV reported.
The Tennessee National Guard, Tennessee Department of Transportation, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Tennessee Department of Education, Tennessee Department of Health, Tennessee Department of Human Needs, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, fire mutual aid and more are responding to the flooding mission.
A 2-year-old boy named Kellen Burrow Vaughn went missing during the flood after he was swept away from an apartment complex, his aunt Trista Tidwell Forsythe told News2ABC.
The boy’s other family members were rescued including his four siblings as well as his mother and father.
Waverly couple Cindy Dunn, 48, and her husband Jimmy, 49, were rescued from their attic by a crew who used a bulldozer to reach them.
‘Hell. That’s what we had to go through,’ Cindy Dunn said.
Kellen Burrow Vaughn (pictured) remains missing after he was swept away from a Waverly apartment complex by the floodwaters
Joy Rhodes (pictured) looks through a ruined calendar in her kitchen after her home flooded following heavy rainfall Saturday
A damaged car is stuck in a tree in front of a Waverly home
A pileup of cars and debris are seen on Simpson Avenue in Waverly
A car is seen covered in fallen branches along other pieces of property damage
Layers of pavement are ripped up from Harris Road following catastrophic flash flooding in Tennessee that has left 17 people dead
Debris from flooding is strewn along Sam Hollow Road as residents in Tennessee deal with the severe damage left behind by Saturday’s flash floods
She told The Tennessean that her husband woke her up Saturday, telling her that floodwaters had pushed her car to their backyard. Eventually the water in their house rose to at least 6 feet (1.8 meters) high, forcing them to the attic. Dunn said the rooftop wasn´t an option.
‘My husband is dealing with cancer. He´s going through chemotherapy. And I am an amputee. So there was no going anywhere besides the attic,’ Dunn said.
Dunn said their home and neighboring houses ‘are gone.’
Hickman County Chief Deputy Rob Edwards said in a text message to the newspaper that several people are missing and cellphone service has been disrupted throughout the county.
Flood damage seen in the Waverly home of Vanessa Yates
Vanessa Yates and husband Anthony find wedding wreath among a clutter of debris
16-year-old volunteer Kalyn Clayton helps clean up debris in a kitchen
The side of a home is seen torn up among a clutter of debris from the flood
Cracked street surfaces seen on Simpson Avenue in Waverly
A damaged trailer blocks the middle of a road lined with fallen trees and former possessions
A couch hangs out of a broken window and leftover debris is seen in the doorway of a Waverly home
A shoe is seen on the dirt floor of a home in Waverly
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee tweeted on Saturday, ‘Tennesseans, please stay cautious of rising floodwaters caused by heavy rainfall in parts of Middle TN. We are actively working with emergency response officials & first responders as they support Tennesseans in flooded areas.’
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency activated its emergency operations center and said agencies that include the Tennessee National Guard, the state Highway Patrol, and Fire Mutual Aid were responding to the flooding. In a bulletin, TEMA called the situation ‘dangerous and evolving’ and urged people to avoid travel in the affected counties.
Flash flood warnings were in effect for parts of Lewis, Marshall and Maury counties on Saturday night.
The National Weather Service said up to three more inches of rain was expected in nearby counties.
‘Please do not go out tonight if you do not have to. Flooding is especially dangerous at night,’ NWS Nashville tweeted.
The remains of a Waverly home after it was burnt down as a result of the flood
Homeowners Josh Whitlock and Stacy Mathieson look through what is left of their former Waverly house
Whitlock covers his face as he looks through the debris of his burnt home
Overturned vehicles hang against the side of a Waverly road
The car is seen hanging on the porch of a home after crashing into it as a result of the storm