The mother of four traveled to Fort Myers, Florida to celebrate her 40th birthday; now his family is preparing to lay to rest after being identified as one of Hurricane Ian’s victims, his mother said.
Nishelle Harris-Miles traveled with a group of friends and family from Dayton, Ohio, to celebrate her and a friend’s birthdays, her mother Michele Harris told CNN. He was staying at a vacation rental when Hurricane Ian hit Florida, according to his mother.
“A lot of us at home told him not to go because there was a hurricane coming,” Harris said. “They thought they were safe.”
The true magnitude of Hurricane Ian’s death toll is still unknown, with at least 106 dead in the Southeast since Tuesday, 102 of them in Florida, according to CNN’s tally. Residents in several parts of Florida lost their homes and livelihoods and others are still waiting to be rescued in some of the harshest areas of the state’s southwest.
These are the stories of some of the victims of the hurricane:
The group of friends quickly realized it wasn’t safe to be in Fort Myers, but they didn’t find anyone willing to pick them up from where they were, Harris-Miles’ mother said.
Harris said water seeped into the vacation rental and pushed them toward the ceiling.
“They were on a beach and the two girls couldn’t swim, so they tied each other with a sheet to try and save each other,” he said. “They started kicking and screaming for help. Then the ceiling fell in.”
According to Harris, her daughter realized that a nail had pierced her body while they were trapped in the house.
A neighbor eventually heard the screams coming from inside the property and rescued the group, taking them to a temporary shelter.
“Her sister held her hand until Nishell stopped moving,” Harris said. “They stayed with Nishelle’s body in a makeshift shelter for 16 hours until the shelter started to crack…” The neighbor told them to leave for safety reasons, so they left her body there, Harris said.
Harris-Miles leaves behind two daughters and two sons, her mother said.
Harris-Miles enjoyed dancing and spending time with her family, Harris said.
“He was always the life of the party,” Harris said. “He was a caring and loving person. He enjoyed life. My daughter was loved by many people.’
Cape Coral, Florida resident Elizabeth McGuire, 49, was found dead in her home Friday after Hurricane Ian tore through the area, her son Andrew Chedester told CNN. Chedester said police told him his mother died in bed with her cell phone in her hand and that she appeared to have died instantly.
His family last spoke to McGuire on Wednesday and have had trouble contacting him since then, Chedester said. When no one heard from him, the neighbors called for a welfare check.
Chedester said she was at home Friday when a Cape Coral Police Department detective knocked on the door and informed her of her mother’s death. She said she got a call from her mother’s ex-boyfriend before that.
“I can’t believe that someone I just saw the other day is completely gone,” the 24-year-old said of her mother.
He talked about how the two of them always joked around. “‘Keep your head up you little bitch, you’re going to be okay,'” Chedester said her mother would tell her when times were tough.
“He was a friend when you needed him the most,” Chedester said.
CNN spoke with her mother, Susan McGuire, who learned of her daughter’s death through her granddaughter, Chedester. She said her daughter was suffering from blood clots from deep vein thrombosis and was on disability.
Her daughter, named “Liz,” is survived by two sons, the mother said.
Susan McGuire had limited cell phone service during and after the storm as she stayed on Pine Island in Bokeelia, Florida. She worried the worst about her daughter, especially her health, she said.
“A hundred meals won’t cost you what a hurricane will cost you,” said Susan McGuire, who moved here from Maryland about a year ago. “My husband’s business has been wiped out, my daughter has died. The destruction is immense. A blizzard never took anything away from me.’
Jayron Purvis, 22, died in Robersonville, North Carolina, when the remnants of Hurricane Ian passed through the area on Friday.
“His truck was driving on wet roads during the storm when he went off the road and into a swamp, where he drowned,” North Carolina Department of Public Safety spokesman Keith Acree said in a statement to CNN.
Purvis is one of four storm-related deaths in the state.
Three people were killed in separate vehicle-related incidents Friday, according to a statement from Gov. Roy Cooper’s office. Another person died of carbon monoxide poisoning after starting a generator in a closed garage.