WILMINGTON, N.C. — The family knew that it would be dangerous to stay in their home in Wilmington, N.C., as Hurricane Florence roared into the Carolinas. But family members came to a grim realization: They did not have the money to leave.
“Thursday night we were all sitting around laughing and playing board games,” Chyna Doughty, 21, said. “Everything was just fine.”
But on Friday as the storm moved inland, “we heard a loud crash and the entire house shook,” Ms. Doughty said. “My grandma, my sisters and I all ran out of the bedrooms. We had no clue what the crash was.”
A tree had fallen onto the house, killing her mother, Lesha Murphy-Johnson, 41, and her baby, Adam Johnson, who was 7 months old.
“We couldn’t see or hear my mother or the baby,” Ms. Doughty said. “Although they weren’t making noise, we all tried to keep faith and pray that they were still alive.”
At least three infants were among the 42 people who died in the high winds and heavy rains after the hurricane moved into the region. One infant died in flooding; a second child was killed by a falling tree.
“It’s tragic anytime you lose a young life because it’s like ‘What was in store for that person,’” Ms. Murphy-Johnson’s niece, Maria Davis, said. “Everything that lies ahead going forward.”
In Union County, N.C., southeast of Charlotte, Kaiden Lee-Welch, 1, died late Sunday when he was swept away after his mother, Dazia Lee, drove around barricades and onto a flooded road.
“I saw people coming in and out so that’s when I was about to detour, but I stopped. I saw cars coming in and out so I thought. …” Ms. Lee said, her voice trailing off as she described the scene to a reporter from the TV station WCNC.
“You thought it was O.K.,” the reporter said.
“Yeah,” she responded.
She drove past the barricades. Not long after, floodwater engulfed her car.
The car, a Hyundai Elantra, had been forced off the road by the water and into an overflowing creek, Sheriff Eddie Cathey of Union County said on Monday.
Ms. Lee managed to free Kaiden from his car seat, but her foot got caught on a seatbelt and the boy slipped out of her hands, she told The Washington Post. Kaiden disappeared into the water.
Rescuers found Kaiden’s body the next day in about 10 feet of water, his body trapped between the bumper of the car and a tree.
In Dallas, N.C., northwest of Charlotte, 3-month-old Kashton Kade Gill, died on Sunday when a tree fell onto the roof of the family’s mobile home. The tree separated Kashton’s father, Olen Gill, from his son and his wife, Tammy.
Uninjured, Mr. Gill ran outside and asked the neighbors to call 911, then ran to the living room window and pulled out the air-conditioner. Kashton was crying and covered in debris, and Ms. Gill handed him to her husband through the window, just as the emergency medical workers arrived. But Kashton soon went into distress.
At the hospital, doctors performed C.P.R. for 30 minutes, Mr. Gill said, then asked the parents for permission to stop.
“We just couldn’t give that O.K.,” Mr. Gill said.
The doctors kept trying. About 15 minutes later, they returned and said Kashton was gone.
“Cherish your family, your loved ones,” Mr. Gill, 43, said. “Because you don’t know when tragedy might strike.”
In Wilmington, Ms. Murphy-Johnson, a mother of four, worked for many years as the director of property management at the Wilmington Housing Authority, Ms. Doughty said. She was close to earning a degree at Cape Fear Community College and owned a bartending business.
“My mother was loved by many people and no one expected to lose her so soon,” Ms. Doughty said. “She never let hard times get the best of her and she always pushed my sisters and I to follow our dreams no matter how difficult life may get.”
Ms. Murphy-Johnson’s husband and Adam’s father, Adam Johnson, was pinned down by the falling tree. He was freed by emergency medical workers, Ms. Doughty said, and was recovering.
On Thursday afternoon, family members sat on the front porch, still in disbelief.
“It’s almost something you see on Lifetime or read in a book,” Ms. Davis, 28, said, “you know somebody died by a tree falling. It’s surreal. It just doesn’t seem real.”
Two weeks ago, the family had gathered for a seafood boil, and young Adam got his first taste of applesauce, said Marie Murphy, Ms. Murphy-Johnson’s older sister.
He could not get enough, Ms. Murphy said: As soon as he finished the pouch, he reached out for another one.
“He was full of life,” she said. “Laughing, cooing and putting his hand in his mouth. He was just so full of life and for this to happen, it’s just like a shock to all of us.”
Tyler Pager reported from Wilmington, N.C. and Christina Caron reported from New York. Doris Burke contributed research.