The parents heard the alert for flash floods at 2 a.m. They got four kids dressed. When water started invading their trailer, they climbed onto the roof.
Amber Smith and her husband, Riley Noble, eventually guided their children to a tree. But the waters were too strong. All four children died in the flash floods in that devastated Kentucky on Thursday.
A cousin of Ms. Smith, Brittany Trejo, shared the family’s story, as it had been told to her by Ms. Smith.
All told, of the 16 people who have died so far, six of them were children.
Ms. Trejo said that the bodies of the children — Maddison Noble, 8; Riley Jr., 6; Nevaeh Noble, 4; and Chance Noble, 2 — were found on Friday in Knott County.
Ms. Smith, 23, and Mr. Noble, who is also in his 20s, survived.
The parents received an alert about flash floods at 2 a.m. Thursday. Ms. Smith looked out the window and saw “a little bit of water that wasn’t alarming in one moment but became alarming in the next moment,” Ms. Trejo said.
In the few minutes that it took Ms. Smith to put clothes and jackets on her four children, their trailer began to flood. She realized that they would drown if they stayed inside.
The parents took the children outside, but water was coming in from all directions. “There was nowhere to go and no place to drive to,” Ms. Trejo said.
In the dark, the family climbed atop the trailer, where they thought they would be safe.
“But they were only up there for a very short time before they realized that their home is about to be swept away,” Ms. Trejo said.
Holding hands with the older children and hugging the younger ones tight, the family floated from the top of their mobile home to nearby tree, Ms. Trejo said.
“Amber said that all she could see around her was water and it was getting higher and higher even as they were getting on the tree,” Ms. Trejo said.
As the family clung to the tree and to one another, rain continued to pelt them, Ms. Trejo said. They watched their trailer float away.
They tried to call for help, but 911 was down, Ms. Trejo said.
As the water rose higher, each of the four children was swept away from the tree. “The rage of the water took their children out of their hands,” Ms. Trejo said.
The parents remained clinging to the tree for six to eight hours before they were rescued by a man in a kayak who was rowing from home to home seeing who needed help.
“They were a very loving family, very close-knit,” Ms. Trejo said. “Amber has never spent a night away from any of her kids.”
Steven Smith, an uncle, fondly remembered that Maddison loved school. His wife, Brandi Smith recalled that Neveah liked dolls.
Riley and Chance spent much of their time playing with each other. “Even when they found the bodies, theirs were the closest,” he said. “I know they hung on to each other till the very end.”