More than 48 hours after Oaklynn Koon and the rest of her family were sent flying by the winds of a tornado that tore apart her family’s home, baby Oaklynn succumbed to her injuries Sunday evening.

Oaklynn Koon, a 2-month-old baby, was in a car seat as the storm approached. She had been put there because her parents expected that the car seat would provide at least a little extra protection. The whole family, parents Jackie and Douglas Koon and their three children, huddled in the bathroom of Jackie’s mother’s house as the storm hit. 

They were all ripped out of that home and thrown “way on the other end of our neighbor’s house,” as Jackie put it.

Nothing is scarier, Jackie wrote on a Facebook post, than “knowing a tornado is heading your way and hearing your kids freaked out and thinking we are going to die.” 

Douglas Koon gave a reporter his own account. “Then all of a sudden,”” he said, “as if time stood still. It felt like you were being tossed around like a rag doll in a sack. It felt somebody was standing and hitting me … repeatedly and you can’t hear anything but destruction.” 

Oaklynn Koon and Her Brother Both Put in Hospital

Every member of the family survived the initial shock and impact. Oaklynn Koon and her brother, 4-year-old Dallas, were injured and each was taken to a hospital. Oaklynn went initially to Baptist Health Deaconess. Dallas went to an Indiana facility for treatment, but his injuries were minor and he has since been released.

Her oldest sibling, 11-year-old Bentley, did not have to be hospitalized. 

On Sunday morning, Jackie reported, again on Facebook, that Oaklynn Koon’s condition had worsened overnight. The 2-month-told baby may have had a stroke overnight. The staff decided it was necessary to have her airlifted to Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. 

Doctors at Norton gave Jackie and Douglas Koon the devastating news that Oaklynn Koon’s brain continued to swell: she would likely not pull through at all and, if she did, she would be brain dead for the rest of her life.

Mother and father made the wrenching decision to have their baby removed from the ventilator. Douglas Koon said: “I don’t want to see my child suffer any longer than they have to because of me just trying to hold on to something that’s not there.” He added that he was grateful to have had two months with Oaklynn. “She was the cutest baby ever and had the biggest smile and most beautiful eyes.”

As a consequence of the devastation wrought by the tornadoes, there are four counties in Kentucky that now have a death rate in the double digits. To date the highest casualty storm in the history of Kentucky occurred in 1890 and it left 76 dead. The grim counting continues, with Oaklynn Koon now tragically added to the list, and the December 2021 storms may be on track to break that record.

The Federal Government Issues Disaster Declaration

President Biden has issued a disaster declaration for 15 counties in the state: Breckenridge, Bullitt, Caldwell, Fulton, Graves, Grayson, Hickman, Hopkins, Lyon, Meade, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Shelby, Spencer, and Warren. Biden has given the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) authority to provide necessary assistance to “alleviate the impacts of the emergency.” But informed observers caution that recovery for western Kentucky as a region is going to be a protracted process.

Major concerns for recovery include housing, power, water and fuel. FEMA and other agencies are working to address all those issues. The administrator of FEMA, Deanne Criswell, now touring the affected region, said that she understands that communications and Internet services are affected, so that FEMA cannot assume that the residents with difficulties are in a position to access Web pages. FEMA representatives are on the ground spreading the word.

Many fundraisers have been established for people who want to contribute to the families who have suffered losses. Facebook and the Western Kentucky Red Cross have teamed up with an online initiative with that purpose.