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Spotsylvania deputy was the first to respond to the destroyed cheerleading building.
Date published: 7/11/2012
Spotsylvania County sheriff's Deputy Jesse Hanrahan saw a woman lying on the floor after he walked into what was left of the Cheer Fusion All-Stars gym.
The woman, Michelle Smith, was in the lobby at the former warehouse on Fleming Street after a microburst tore through an area near Four-Mile Fork on Sunday evening.
She told Hanrahan she had fallen and that everyone else was in another room, which she called the main gym. A lot of them could be trapped beneath a wall that collapsed, she said.
So the deputy walked through a doorway--and into broad daylight. The roof was gone, as was a wall to his right.
"My first thought was, if someone's under the wall, how are we going to get to them?" Hanrahan, 26, recalled in an interview Tuesday. "Because, obviously, I can't pick up the wall."
He was the first on the scene after the powerful thunderstorm destroyed the 6,868-square-foot cheerleader-training facility between Lafayette Boulevard and U.S. 1.
The storm dumped debris on a house next door and pushed it off the foundation. The straight-line winds ripped the roof off parts of a small strip shopping center nearby. And in Spotswood Estates the microburst--with winds of 80 mph--downed trees, damaging homes and vehicles.
Hanrahan, a father of four who has been with the county Sheriff's Office for a little more than four years, said he received the emergency call shortly after his shift had been scheduled to end.
He had checked on a 7-Eleven on Lafayette Boulevard without power before responding to Cheer Fusion.
After he walked into the main gym, which had been reduced to piles of concrete blocks, he heard shouting from a small rectangular auxiliary gym. About 20 people, mostly teenagers, were inside, he said. They were at the gym for a 5 p.m. practice.
An adult pointed out parent Heath Mullins, who told the deputy he thought he had broken bones.
A beam had apparently fallen on him as he helped usher children and other parents to safety.
"He wasn't disoriented. He wasn't in and out of consciousness or anything," Hanrahan recalled. "He was aware of what was going on."
Mullins had multiple fractures of his feet, legs and back.