Dorian Swept 86-Year-Old Into The Sea


Tribune Senior Reporter


HURRICANE Dorian swept an 86-year-old woman who refused to leave home into the sea, her nephew testified in the Coroner’s Court yesterday.

David Cornish said his aunt, Modena Hepburn, refused to leave her Dundas Town home because she had survived so many hurricanes there.

He is among dozens giving testimony this month for the Coroner Court’s inquest into the presumed deaths of people reported missing after Hurricane Dorian.

Mr Cornish, his aunt and his niece became frantic as their house crumbled around them on September 1, 2019.

Mr Cornish said water flooded their house and yanked him outside. He found safety in a vehicle and soon opened the car window for his niece, who was screaming outside.

“The sea took us around for two hours,” he said. “We were up and down until the eye of the storm came. We were floating around in the car like it was a boat. The currents took us 500 yards away from the house.”

During the lull, Mr Cornish and his niece searched an hour for Ms Hepburn before Hurricane Dorian raged again.

They spent the night of September 1 in a building, waiting for the storm to pass. They searched for Ms Hepburn the next day, but had no luck.

Mr Cornish later provided DNA samples to police. He has not been informed of a match.

Asked by Coroner Jeannine Weech Gomez of what he thinks happened to his aunt, he said: “With the force of the water that took me outside, when it returned it took her back with it and took her into the ocean. There were no walls to the back of the house to stop her from going into the ocean.”

Kahlel Smith, 21, also gave testimony via Zoom yesterday regarding his mother, Kathleen Farquharson. His step-father, Alexander Farquharson, testified on Wednesday.

Mr Smith said his mother refused to leave their home even though they lived near the sea.

He said during the storm, he and his mother sought refuge on the balcony of their two-storey home as the roof collapsed and flood waters reached the second floor.

He said the balcony collapsed, plunging them into the sea.

“That was the last time I saw her,” he said.

Mr Smith remained in Abaco for several days after the storm, circling his destroyed home in a failed search for his mother.

He came to New Providence and filed a missing person report.

DNA swabs were taken from him but he has not been notified of a match.

“I kept calling and calling but they said they were waiting on (DNA) results,” he said. “I only recently stopped calling.”

Mr Smith described his ordeal as a “life-changing experience” that “opened (his) eyes to everything”.

The inquest continues next week Tuesday.


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