Waverly police chief Grant Gillespie said at a news conference Tuesday that the issue was that some people who were in the emergency room and died of natural causes were added to the count. Gillespie said John and Jane Doe victims twice were not crossed off the list once they were identified.
“The authorities slowed down the process and had detectives follow up on each case and confirm the numbers. The totals now line up with what the state has tallied,” he said.
“Just an honest mistake, and I hope everybody understands that,” Gillespie added. “It’s still a tremendous loss of life. I hope that number doesn’t grow.”
Three people are still on the list of those missing who witnesses said they saw in the water, he said.
Town of Waverly saw the most death and destruction from Saturday’s flooding.
Humphreys County chief deputy Rob Edwards said search teams started from Waverly and moved slowly downstream. Fewer than 10 people remained unaccounted for Tuesday.
It’s difficult to know how far the bodies might have been carried, but one car was found about a half-mile from where it had been parked.
Sheriff’s deputies and police were aided by crews from agencies all over the state, he said. The teams have cadaver dogs at the ready if they suspect a body might be nearby. With the heat in the mid-80 degrees F and rising, it was not difficult to detect the odor of decay, Edwards said, although crews also were finding animals.
The flooding took out roads, cellphone towers and telephone lines, leaving people uncertain about whether family and friends survived the unprecedented deluge, with rainfall that more than tripled forecasts and shattered the state’s one-day record.
It also left large swaths of the community suddenly displaced, leaving many to sort through difficult decisions about what comes next.
GoFundMe pages sought help for funeral expenses for the dead, including seven-month-old twins swept from their father’s arms as they tried to escape.
Matthew Rigney and Danielle Hall described to WTVF-TV how the water began to rage through their apartment where they sheltered with their four children.
“I had the twins in my arms, I had (19-month-old) Brayla on my hip and I had (five-year-old) Maleah wrapped around my neck,” Rigney told the news station, his voice trembling behind tears. “The water, when it hit us, it just pulled us under, all of us and we were trapped underneath a bed.”
Hall said she was trying to climb out the window to go to a nearby store for help and ended up having to grab onto a tree for her life.
The other two children survived.
A neighbor helped Rigney and the two children up to the roof. Hall was ultimately rescued from the tree by boat.
Meanwhile, the state received approval from President Joe Biden for a major disaster declaration, which frees up federal aid to help with recovery efforts in Humphreys County, the White House said in a statement Tuesday.
After touring the area on Sunday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee called it a “devastating picture of loss and heartache”.