Toddler swept away in flash flood

Saturday, February 2, 2002

Southeast Missourian

JONESBORO, Ill. -- The rain that deluged Union County this week was over by Friday, and Green Creek returned to its banks. To an outsider, the only sign of flooding was damp, bent grass drying in the sun and grief encompassing the community.

There were quiet conversations and shaking heads in Jonesboro's convenience stores and in the courthouse as residents tried to absorb the news.

Three-year-old girl Alexis Nicole McCormick was found dead Thursday in the Southern Illinois town after floodwaters ripped her from her grandmother's arms.

Kathy Reynolds was carrying the child across a swollen stream near her home just after dark when she was knocked off her feet by the current, said Union County Sheriff Jim Nash.

The child was torn from her grandmother's grip when the woman fell, he said.

Heavy rains saturated the area since Tuesday, dumping nearly 2 inches on Thursday alone.

On gravel Katzinger Hollow Road, where the Reynolds family lives, the usually tame Green Creek that runs alongside the roadway became a torrent rushing over it.

"Apparently, she thought it was too deep to drive through," Nash said, so Reynolds attempted to carry the girl across.

The grandmother ran to a nearby neighbor's house to call 911, and nearly 200 emergency workers, neighbors and relatives searched for the toddler for more than two hours before finding her body in a brush pile 200 yards downstream.

There are several small bridges in the area, with Green and Dutch creeks creating a serpentine pattern through the valley just west of Jonesboro.

Cars and trucks surrounded the Reynolds quiet home Friday. A man at the family home said well-wishers should make donations to the girl's church.

Members of the girl's large extended family attended several different churches in the area, but Alexis attended Sunday school at the Apostolic Faith Church.

Church pastor Steven Miller said the toddler's family is in shock, particularly her grandmother, who was often the child's primary caregiver.

"I can't imagine anything more devastating happening," Miller said.

Like many members of the community, Miller drove out to the creek Thursday night as soon as he heard about the tragedy.

Spotters searched the creek bed for about 5 miles.

"People who didn't even know Alexis had tears pouring down their faces and were praying in the rain," Miller said.

"This is the worst thing about our business," said funeral director Phil Hileman. "You never get used to having to deal with children."

Visitation is after 5 p.m. today at Hileman and Parr funeral chapel in Jonesboro with a service at 1 p.m. Sunday at the funeral home. Burial will be in St. Johns Cemetery.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

abuchanan@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 160

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