RETSIL, Wash. — Neighbors of a 15-year-old girl hospitalized after being crushed by a tree Monday are doing what they can to help the family: Clearing branches and logs around the house, launching an online fundraiser ... and praying.
The girl was in a bedroom of her Arnold Avenue home around 4:45 p.m. when high winds downed a large fir tree, causing it to smash a corner of the house and pinning the girl.
She remained at Tacoma General Hospital on Tuesday in serious condition, upgraded from critical, according to Mark Swart, the hospital spokesman.
Sherree Thorp, a neighbor and friend of the family who was organizing the assistance effort, said she had heard from the girl's father that her condition had improved. The girl doesn't appear to have internal injuries or permanent brain damage, although she appeared unconscious as she was pulled from the rubble, according to Thorp.
"She's a walking miracle," she said. "She's not out of the woods yet."
Thorp is still reliving the horrific scene from Monday evening.
"I saw the tree come down on the house," she said, recalling the loud splitting timber. "It just exploded."
"We were making dinner, and we heard a big crack from the tree breaking off," said Tavia Vice, who lives across the street with Adam Medlock. "We could just hear the husband screaming inside."
Despite a downed power line, Adam grabbed a saw and was able to help the girl's father, John Shaw, and another family member free the girl. An off-duty paramedic also assisted, according to Thorp.
"She was breathing a little bit, but they couldn't wake her up or anything," Vice said.
Other members of the family evacuated the house uninjured, according to witnesses.
John Shaw, the girl's father, is a veteran and the pastor of Victory Chapel in Port Orchard, a small and close-knit congregation. The Shaws are part of a large extended family, seven of whom were living in the home.
On Tuesday, neighbors, friends and church members fired up chainsaws and loaded trucks with debris. Stanley Rich, a church member, helped with the cleanup. "I'm just doing what I can. I hope people will do the same for me."
Rich and others praised the family. "The pastor's one that really cares, preaching Christ's message and trying to save as many souls as he can for Jesus."
"Their only vehicle is totaled and their rental house is destroyed," said Thorp, who loaned her own car so the family could get to the hospital.
The girl attends South Kitsap High School and plays keyboard on the church worship team, Thorp said. "She's a sweet kid. ... They're a strong family of faith. We're praying for them. It's starting to happen. We're just waiting for God to finish."
Thorp said the Shaws are getting assistance through the Red Cross for temporary shelter.