Veteran, 85, Dies from Infection Contracted in Aftermath of Hurricane Florence as Death Toll Rises
Ron Phelps picked up the bacteria infection that would claim his life while doing yard work after the storm
An 85-year-old man who served in the U.S. Navy during the 1950s died after he contracted a bacterial infection in the aftermath Hurricane Florence, becoming the latest of dozens of deaths linked to the storm.
Ron Phelps was cleaning his backyard in the days after Florence swept through North Carolina when he accidentally cut his leg and developed a severe bacterial infection, reports WECT. Phelps, who lived near the Intracoastal Waterway in Wilmington, had contracted a rare bacteria only found in saltwater. Doctors then had to amputate his leg as the infection progressed. But despite their efforts, Phelps died on Tuesday.
The retired insurance agent was beloved by many in his community thanks to the many stories he shared on the popular Facebook page he co-founded, Hometown Memories of Wilmington NC, where he posted classic pictures of the area he called home. Thanks to Phelps, the page grew to thousands of followers who all tuned in to get their dose of nostalgia. The page not only served to bring the past to the present, but helped the community grow closer to one another.
“He really brought the town together,” his niece, Paula Phelps Turner, told Star News.
Running the social media page became one of Phelps’ many joys in life, and he could constantly be seen updating and posting to Facebook.
“He loved that Facebook page, and he loved to see people happy,” Phelps’ stepson, Steve Shepard, told the publication. “He used that cell phone like a 15-year-old.”
Florence poured more than 30 inches of rain over the region when it hit in mid-September.
In North Carolina, 39 people have died as a result of Florence, and a portion of the deaths have been attributed to post-storm cleanup, Gov. Roy Cooper’s office announced.
Recently, a 47-year-old man was found dead outside of a home on September 21 after falling from a ladder while fixing damage caused by the storm, and a 69-year-old man died after falling from a roof while attempting to clean. As in the case of Phelps, others have also developed infections.
“Residents should wear gloves and proper protective clothing while doing storm clean-up work and wash any cuts or scrapes thoroughly to prevent infection,” the governor’s office advised.
In South Carolina, eight people have been killed in relation to the storm, as well as three in Virginia, according to CNN.
In both states, many deaths were caused by vehicles who were caught in floods, such as when two mental health patients in South Carolina drowned when the police vehicle they were being transported in was swept away by floodwaters.