WAVERLY, TN (WSMV) – A father recounted the harrowing moments his twin babies were ripped from his arms by the Waverly floodwaters.
“They had a personality.”
Their parents said Ryan and Rileigh Rigney were happy babies.
“My little bubba man, he smiled nonstop and he could say ‘bubba,'” Danielle Hall recalled, smiling herself. “She [Rileigh] started crawling. On Friday, she crawled for the first time.”
At just 7-months-old, the twins leaned on each other.
“They were always smiling,” Matthew Rigney said. “They only cried when you separated them.”
“They were attached to each other like nothing else,” Hall added.
Rigney and Hall believe they would have drowned in their sleep, if it were not for the sound of their transformer blowing just before 6 a.m. on Saturday.
“Before we all got up and got ready, water was coming in the house,” Rigney said.
Hall left to look for help, grabbing onto floating debris and making it not 1,000 feet from their home.
“The water just took me. And the only thing I could hang onto was a tree. I’m not joking. The tree was only this big around,” she explained.
Hall cupped her hands to illustrate how thing it was. She would be there for six hours until help arrived.
Back at their home, Rigney said it filled with water within minutes, trapping him and his four children, ages five and under, in the back bedroom.
“We tried to get out the window, but the water was coming in so fast, we couldn’t even get out the window,” Rigney said.
He clung to all four of his children, the water now just a foot from the ceiling.
“I had her [Maleah] on my neck. I had my one-year-old right here on my hip, and I had my twins like this, kind of grasping onto my one-year-old. And when the water hit and the room filled up, that’s when I lost them. I lost all of them,” Rigney said.
His five- and one-year-old daughters came back up. The twins never did. “[Maleah] swam up like a big girl, and I grab her. I see Brayla across the room, and she’s flapping her arms,” Rigney said. “I couldn’t find the twins nowhere… It was the worst experience I’ve ever had.”
As Rigney struggled to keep his daughters above the still-rising water, a neighbor climbed onto their roof and pulled them to safety just in time.
“If he hadn’t helped us get onto the roof, I don’t even know where we’ be at right now,” Rigney said.
It was hours later that Rigney and Hall received the news that authorities had located the bodies of the twins.
“That was the best news we got when we found out they were found together. They never left each other’s side,” Rigney said.
It’s how Rigney and Hall know Waverly will get through this, too.
“When you go through this, you feel like you’re alone, and you don’t know what to do. But, there are so many angels watching over us,” Hall said. “My babies made an impact on this world.”
The family’s home was destroyed in flood as well, leaving them with nothing. Hall’s cousin started a GoFundMe to help with expenses. To donate, click here.