Family mourns Dayton woman who was a victim of Hurricane Ian

Three of her traveling party survived in Fort Myers; Nishelle Harris-Miles described as “the life of all the parties”

Family members are mourning the loss of a Dayton woman who was among the victims of Hurricane Ian.

Nishelle Harris-Miles had traveled to Fort Myers, Florida, the week after her birthday to celebrate with her sister, cousin and friend, when the Category 4 hurricane struck.

Hurricane Ian’s path was uncertain in the week before, but the powerful storm made landfall Wednesday in Fort Myers. The four women tied themselves together with a bedsheet in their unit, laying on top of a mattress.

Harris-Miles’ mother, Michelle Harris, said one of the four described the water shooting up through the floor, pressing them between the mattress and the ceiling. Not long after, the roof collapsed, and Nishelle was struck in the neck and killed.

ExplorePHOTOS: Fort Myers reeling from Hurricane Ian damage

The other women waited more than 12 hours before they were rescued by neighbors who pulled them out of the wreckage. They returned Saturday to Ohio.

Now, Michelle Harris, who said family members had tried to talk the group out of the Florida trip, is waiting for answers from Florida authorities about when her daughter’s body can be returned.

“I just want my baby home. And nobody’s called me. I’ve talked to the sheriff there. My daughter’s called, leaving messages with the coroner. Nobody’s called me,” she said.

Nishelle Harris is survived by her two sons and two daughters. Family members described her as a loving, generous person.

“She was the life of all the parties. Anybody calling, she’s coming,” Michelle Harris said. “She was sweet. She’d give her last, the shirt off her back.”

The street outside Nishelle’s home was packed on Sunday, as people came out to release balloons to honor her memory.

“I just want to thank the people that have helped me. That helped my babies, and the two people that helped to get them back here. The people that have donated to get them back here. I’m just so thankful and so grateful,” Michelle Harris said.

Meanwhile, more than 1,700 people remain in emergency shelters in Florida, according to the Associated Press, and search and rescue efforts continue for other victims.

So far 58 Florida deaths have been tied to Hurricane Ian, according to official medical examiner reports there, but preliminary reports from local authorities put the state’s death at about 85. Lee County, which includes Fort Myers, accounts for about half of those 85, according to Sheriff Carmine Marceno. Most died by drowning.

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