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Falling tree kills Buford woman

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By Mandy Catoe

At least one person was killed Thursday when a tree crushed a mobile home about 5 p.m. in the 4700 block of Pageland Highway, about a half-mile east of Buford Crossroads.
“There is one confirmed fatality and the coroner’s office has been notified,” said Lancaster County Fire Marshall Stephen Blackwelder.

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Officials did not identify the victim by press time, but Patrick Burgess, 17, identified her as his grandmother, Coleen Burgess.
Patrick Burgess, interviewed at the scene, said she was taking a nap in her bedroom when the tree came down. His grandfather, Jim Burgess, was the only other person in the house, eating a sandwich in the kitchen, according to his grandson.
Patrick Burgess said he and his father, Kevin, and some friends were nearby in a shed playing cards when they heard the crash.
“At first I thought it was lightning,” he said. When he saw the tree on the house, he knew his grandmother’s room was underneath it.
He said Jim Burgess escaped the wreckage and was unhurt. Patrick Burgess called 911. He said his grandmother, a certified nursing assistant, had retired last April from Carolinas Medical Center in Monroe.
At press time Thursday evening, nearly two dozen emergency vehicles crammed the site. A John Deere tractor was removing debris from the house. Firefighters wielded chainsaws.
Two helicopters hovered overhead. Eighteen relatives, friends and neighbors consoled each other in the yard.
Buford Volunteer Fire Department rescue workers were working at a frantic pace to get the 100-foot-tall tree off the home.
“It was almost cut in half,” said Blackwelder. “Our guys are bustin’ it to make sure that no one else is inside.”
Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile said he believes the overnight torrential thunderstorms that dumped more than 2 inches of rain in some parts of the county, when coupled with Thursday’s strong wind gusts of up to 40 mph, had to be factors that pulled the massive oak out of the ground.
“It didn’t fall on the house, it fell through the house,” Faile said. “It’s a bad situation, and it just hurts my heart to see something like this happen.”
Kevin Burgess’ wife of 24 years, Tammy, was among the quiet group of family and neighbors watching as the rescuers worked.
“She was my best friend,” Tammy Burgess said of her mother-in-law. “She was a very loving woman with a big heart. She loved her grandkids.”
Patrick Burgess said his grandmother fixed him breakfast every morning before school, including today.
“I was like grandma’s favorite,” he said. “I was over at her house all the time. She was one of the most kind people I have ever known. Even when I did something stupid, she would come help me out….
“I didn’t know it would be the last time I would tell her I loved her this morning.”

UPDATE: Two dogs were pulled from the demolished house around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday evening. Both were still alive.

Reporters Gregory A. Summers and Kayla Vaughn contributed to this article.