South Georgia officer loses family members in tsunami - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

South Georgia officer loses family members in tsunami

January 5, 2005

Thomasville-- When Thomasville Police Officer Charles Allen Barnhill first saw a tsunami had hit South Asia, he didn't realize the magnitude of destruction that had been caused.

"I thought is was just a little wave, really, nothing to it, until Monday night and I saw the body count," he said.

"Tuesday came, it continued to get higher. We called family, no contact," Barnhill said.

Finally, he received word about his family-- the news was devastating. "They did find my cousin, my little four-year- old cousin in a tree."

"The military thought they found my aunt and oldest cousin in a house. They think it's them, but they can't... the bodies are decomposing so fast."

"Still unable to locate my uncle. They know he's pretty well dead. Aunt, uncle and two cousins... so, pretty much the whole family was wiped out."

And there are close to a dozen other members of Officer Barnhill's extended family that have been found or presumed dead. "They said if they haven't come in contact with a rescue worker or someone in uniform by now, then they're dead."

 But there is a ray of light in this tragedy. Barnhill thought he had lost his sister in the deadly waves. "It's kind of like us going to Panama City for the weekend, that's what my sister was doing. She was just going to the beach with her family."

But luckily, she left a day earlier than expected. "Apparently, she left Saturday night, as you know the tsunami hit Sunday." Now, Barnhill is making plans to visit the devastated region, to help pick up the pieces, and say a final goodbye to those he lost.

If you would like to make donations to help Officer Barnhill and his mother get to South Asia, contact the Thomasville police department at 229-227-3300.

posted at 4:40PM by dave.miller@walb.com

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