Seven drown in Richland County floodwaters

Alex Holmes, 24, graduated from the University of South Carolina and J. L. Mann High School.
Alex Holmes, 24, graduated from the University of South Carolina and J. L. Mann High School. Photo provided

Alex Holmes called a friend early Sunday morning in a panic, explaining over the phone that her car was filling with water and that she couldn’t get out, said Peggy Souder, Holmes’ grandmother.

Souder said Holmes’ friend advised her to roll down the windows and swim out, but Holmes frantically replied that the water had reached her car battery and her power windows wouldn’t roll down.

Holmes’ friend could hear her panicking over the phone before the call dropped, Souder said. A few hours later, Souder said, another granddaughter called her with the news: Alex Holmes, her 24-year-old granddaughter, was dead.

“I just screamed, ‘Oh my God, oh no!’” Souder said.

Holmes was one of seven people to die in Richland County from the historic rainfall and flooding that pounded South Carolina last weekend and Monday.

All seven drowned, apparently after attempting to drive through standing or moving water, county coroner Gary Watts said. They were all Columbia residents. Gov. Nikki Haley said on Tuesday that the state’s death toll was up to 15.

Souder said Holmes had visited a hospital with a stomach ailment earlier Sunday morning and was on the way home about 6:45 a.m. when she became trapped in water. She was found dead in her vehicle at 1400 Sunset Drive, near Palmetto Health Richland, according to a news release from Watts.

Robert McCarty, 78, and state Department of Transportation employee Timothy Gibson, 45, were found dead Sunday night, Watts said. Melissa Hall, 35, and Robert Allawos, 60, were found dead Monday morning, he said.

Richard Milroy, 82, was found dead in his vehicle Monday night, and Sampson Pringle, 30, was found in Carys Lake near the 6800 block of Trenholm Road Tuesday morning, Watts said.

Richland County deputies and Columbia firefighters retrieved Pringle’s body from the lake, said Lt. Curtis Wilson, a spokesman for the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.

Souder said Holmes, who grew up in Greenville and graduated from J. L. Mann High School, was a vibrant woman who loved to travel and write. Holmes graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2013 with a business degree, but not before studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain, Souder said.

“She had just a wonderful personality,” Souder said. “Everywhere she went, she made people smile. To know her was a blessing. To not know her, you just missed out.”

Allison Gibson, the wife of Timothy Gibson, said he was driving to assist a DOT crew with a tree that had fallen in a roadway when his truck was flipped and swept away.

Allison Gibson said they had just celebrated their 13th anniversary and that her husband, an avid outdoorsman, also enjoyed traveling. He loved his job. “He was not the kind of person to take sick days or show up late,” Allison Gibson said. “If he had to work at 8, he would be there at 7:15 instead. He was really devoted to his job.”

Allison Gibson said her husband was looking forward to hunting season and that he was an excellent father to his three children; one – a 17-year-old daughter named Rachael – has cerebral palsy.

“He’s very smart and fun, kind – really kind-hearted and willing to help out anybody,” Allison Gibson said. “He was very handy. If anybody needed anything, he was there fixing it or doing favors. He was an outstanding father.”

Seven people have died in Richland County because of this week’s heavy rain and flooding:

▪ Alexandria Maret Holmes, 24, found in her vehicle at 1400 Sunset Boulevard on Sunday at 1:10 p.m.

▪ Timothy Gibson, 45, found in his vehicle on Garners Ferry Road between Chanwood and Congress Roads on Sunday at 6:42 p.m.

▪ Robert L. McCarty, 78, found in his vehicle at 4400 Devine St. on Sunday at 8:25 p.m.

▪ Melissa Lee Hall, 35, found in her vehicle at Shady Lane and Kilbourne Road on Monday at 3:30 a.m.

▪ Robert Edens Allawos, 60, of Chesham Court, found in his vehicle at Caughman and Teague roads on Monday at 7:15 a.m.

▪ Richard Nelson Milroy, 82, found in his vehicle at 1729 Peeples St. on Monday at 10:18 p.m.

Sampson Antwan Pringle, 30, found at 6838 N. Trenholm Road on Tuesday at 10:40 a.m.