39th death counted in rising toll of KY floods was man who ‘lost everything he had’

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The official death toll from the late July flooding in Eastern Kentucky has now risen to 39, with an additional loss being counted in Breathitt County, Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday afternoon.

“I ask the commonwealth to join me in praying for our fellow Kentuckians during this difficult time,” Beshear said.

Beshear didn’t provide additional details about the victim, but Breathitt County Coroner Hargis Epperson identified the 39th death related to the flood as Tony Calhoun. Calhoun’s fiance Edie Lisk said he was 52.

The state medical examiner’s office is investigating the death and has not yet released a cause of death. Calhoun was found dead earlier this week in front of a family member’s home, Epperson said.

“He lost everything he had (in the flood) the young man did,” Epperson said. “He was overwhelmed with the loss.”

Epperson said Calhoun appeared to have been reading a Bible before he died. It was found beside him.

Friend Charles Shouse said Calhoun was an actor, a screenwriter and a film producer.

Shouse said several years ago, before the Covid pandemic, he and Calhoun were preparing to produce a feature film called “Bad Tom.” Calhoun wrote the script and Shouse was going to direct it.

The band Halfway to Hazard recorded a song about Bad Tom to hopefully be used to promote the film, Shouse said. Calhoun played Bad Tom Smith in their music video, which Shouse directed.

Shouse and Calhoun also made the documentary “The Untold Story of Bad Tom Smith,” which was narrated by Tom Wopat and aired on KET as well as other TV stations in Ky., Shouse said.

On its Facebook page, Halfway to Hazard posted that they were saddened to learn of his passing.

“He played the famous Eastern Kentucky outlaw- ‘Bad Tom Smith’ perfectly in the music video for our song ‘American Outlaw.’ He was a very creative guy and we will miss him and his talents,” the post said.

Epperson said Calhoun was not living at a shelter, but many flood victims are and they need social workers to help them make plans for housing, given the fact that many aren’t going to have enough money from FEMA to replace their homes.

A 38th death related to the flooding was announced earlier this week — a Knott County football player who had a cardiac arrest when he had a medical emergency after helping flood victims in clean up efforts.