A high school athlete mysteriously fell ill and died last week while aiding in relief efforts after catastrophic flooding in Eastern Kentucky ravaged several communities, swept away homes, and killed nearly 40 residents.
Aaron “Mick” Crawford, 18, became the 38th person to die last month due to flash flooding in the state’s Appalachian region.
Crawford’s family told media outlets that after Mick helped flood victims clean up debris and mud, he came home exhausted and complained that his arms felt heavy.
Ronda Crawford, his mother, told Kentucky.com earlier this week that her son went into cardiac arrest after feeling sick for about three days.
Mick was rushed to Albert B. Chandler Hospital in Lexington, where staff admitted him into intensive care before pumping air in and out of his lungs on a ventilator for about four days until he later died on August 5.
“We do not know the reason and have no explanation for what happened,” Crawford said.
Crawford described her son to the Herald-Leader as the “kindest sweetest kid.”
“I know everyone thinks their kid is the best, but he was special,” she said. “He wanted to help people even before the rain had stopped.”
Mick’s desire to serve stemmed from his deep-rooted faith in Jesus Christ.
His mother said he would pray for anyone he met and would not hesitate to ask if they knew about Jesus.
“If Mick could give us his final wish, it would be that everyone come to know Jesus because that’s the most important thing in this world to him,” she said.
Pastor and friend Perry County Sherrif Joe Engle echoed Crawford’s sentiments, and said that the teen’s death was a crushing loss for the community.
“He was just a joy to be around,” Engle told CBS News.
Engle last heard from Mick when the teen asked the sheriff where he could assist victims while torrential rains flooded and swallowed up multiple counties across the region, causing residents to search for high ground until rescue teams could arrive.
“As soon as we understood we had a major disaster going on here, he messaged me,” the sheriff said. “I’m not sure it had even quit raining yet by the time he sent me a message on Facebook.”
“Wanting to know where to go. Wanting to know where to help,” Mick’s message reportedly said.
Engle said he believes Mick’s entire life was about making those around him better.
“That’s how he lived, and when he died, he made others — even strangers — lives better,” said Engle.
“I love him and will miss my friend,” Engle said.
Mick had also involved himself in high school sports, where he led the football and wrestling teams, showing up to practice every day ready to work, while displaying maturity beyond his years.
“He was just the type of kid, you know, he never came to practice in a bad mood,” Knott County Central athletic director Justin Amburgey told WYMT. “He was always very positive.”
Knott County Central wrestling coach Jonathan Aldana said, “Everything that he did, and everything that he was, he always wanted to make sure he was doing everything the right way.”
“When I heard the news about Mick, my heart just sank because you know that’s a person you want in your community,” Aldana said.
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear called Mick a “heroic” student on Twitter early this week.
“Britainy and I are praying for the family of Aaron Crawford, a heroic high school student in Knott County who was bravely helping in the recovery efforts following the flooding,” Beshear said. “This is another tragic loss for Eastern Kentucky.”
“Let us mourn together and honor Aaron, his compassion and kindness for his neighbors,” Beshear added.
Beshear established a relief fund for flood victims that will also help pay for the funeral expense for Crawford’s family.
Mick Crawford was the youngest of eight, with five brothers and two sisters. Funeral services for Mick were held on Thursday.
State officials announced the death toll increased to 39 victims on Thursday.