Alishia Liolli’s husband Cialin Dany holds their child Evan, after attending a memorial service for Liolli, who died in hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas, in Toronto on Tuesday, October 1, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin

Alishia Liolli’s husband Cialin Dany holds their child Evan, after attending a memorial service for Liolli, who died in hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas, in Toronto on Tuesday, October 1, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin

‘Save the kids!’ Dorian survivor tells the harrowing story of his Canadian wife’s death

Family held a funeral and placed Alishia Liolli’s remains in a niche at a cemetery in Windsor, Ont.

Cialin Dany knew he was in trouble when he saw a massive palm tree laying on the ground next to the Abaco Lodge.

As hurricane Dorian whirled at the door, Dany, 32, took his Canadian wife, Alishia Liolli, and two of their children and hunkered down in a room at the fishing resort where he worked. Then another tree slammed into the building.

“The bolts start popping, like popcorn, pop, pop, pop, pop,” Dany said. “Then whoosh, the roof flew off.”

The family and a friend who was with them ducked for cover under the bed and prayed. They watched as the wall in the back of the room swayed.

“Then the wall came down,” Dany said as he recalled the events of Sept. 1.

The wall pinned all five underneath the bed. Their 18-month-old son Evans and Dany’s 11-year-old daughter from a previous relationship, Kescianna, wailed with fear.

Dany’s breathing laboured — the bed frame dug into his neck and right shoulder.

“Daddy, daddy, you don’t sound too good,” his daughter said.

‘TRAGIC SCENE’: Penticton fire chief, dog Sammy scour Hurricane Dorian wreckage in Bahamas

“Count to 500 and I’m going to figure something out,” he said.

“I say to God, ‘if you give me 45 minutes, I swear to you I can save them.’”

He grabbed a piece of wood that flew into the room, jammed it under the bed frame and hit it repeatedly. The pressure on his neck eased. He moved a bit and grabbed another errant piece of wood and smashed the wall. He kicked his way through the rubble and slipped out from underneath the bed.

He scrambled to his feet, grabbed another piece of wood to lever the bed, but the wood broke.

“I need help,” he said to his family.

Liolli told him to get a sledge hammer that was in another room. Dany slammed the tool into the wall, trying to break it up, but the handle snapped in two.

“I’m in really big trouble now,” he thought to himself.

He tried lifting the bed near his friend, Luke Saint Victor, figuring if he could get another adult out, the two of them could save the rest.

“I ask God for one pound of strength more,” he said.

He moved the bed up a bit, enough for his daughter to get out, then he turned to his wife, who was pinned under the wall.

“I say, ‘Alishia, come on baby, it’s your turn,’” Dany said.

“She threw me Evans and said ‘save the kids!’”

Meanwhile, the water outside the one-storey building continued to rise.

“I’m going for help,” he yelled.

He took the children and got into his car, but glass in the doors began to burst. A shard lodged near baby Evans’ eye. Blood flowed.

“Everything was flying, shingles flying, wood flying,” Dany said.

The water rose fast. The car doors would not open, and his daughter started screaming.

“You are a track star,” he told her. “You can do it, just run. When I tell you to move, we move.”

Dany crawled out the window, took the kids and sprinted to a dumpster that had been blown on its side. They hid there for hours as maggots crawled everywhere.

A slight reprieve came when dawn broke and the sun peeked out. He returned to the lodge to try and save his wife and friend, but he couldn’t lift up the wall.

Liolli told him to go get help.

Dany dropped his children off at their pastor’s home, found a chainsaw that he hoped would free his wife and friend, and headed back to the lodge, which by then had been flooded.

He called out to his wife and heard his friend, Luke Saint Victor, say in a faint voice ”the water came up, the water came up.’”

When the chainsaw failed, Dany used an axe to cut the wall into pieces and finally removed the bed.

Underneath, his wife wasn’t breathing. He performed CPR, but it didn’t work.

“The problem was when she went under the bed, she went on her belly and Luke went on his back,” Dany said. “The water came up, not much, like an inch or two, but it was enough.”

Liolli had drowned.

“My head went blank,” Dany said. ”I was crying like a crazy man, just freaking out. I held her in my arms.”

But there was no time for a long embrace. He flagged down a passing power truck, placed Liolli and Saint Victor on the flatbed and then rushed to the clinic. The chief of police, who was there dealing with a flood of bodies being brought in, saw Liolli.

“She’s already gone,” he told Dany.

Dany said he had to get back to his kids. He left Liolli there and prayed Saint Victor would pull through. His friend would die a few days later in Nassau.

After reuniting with his children, Dany called Liolli’s family in LaSalle, Ont., to deliver the news.

Dany later returned to the clinic to figure out how to get Liolli’s body off the island. The authorities moved it to a courtyard along with dozens of other bodies, hidden from the public, but it took a while for Dany to figure that out.

“Nobody would give me an answer, nobody was helping,” he said.

Time was a problem. A body doesn’t last long in the Bahamas heat.

“The smell was starting to rise up on the island,” he said. “I needed to get the boy out of there. It was crowded, dark, and I didn’t trust anyone.”

The airport and docks were overrun with crowds, so he drove to Treasure Cay where he and Evans spent two days outside, getting bit by spiders and bugs, as they waited for a flight off the island. His daughter Kescianna stayed with his ex-wife.

The pair got to Nassau, where Deny was faced with a bureaucratic nightmare that went on for days. Back in Canada, Liolli’s mom, Josie Mcdonagh, tried frantically to get the authorities to help.

About a week later, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland called the family.

“She helped a lot,” Mcdonagh said.

Liolli’s body finally made it to Nassau on Sept. 11. Dany had to identify it.

“I did not want to see her like that, but I had to,” he said. “I had to.”

Liolli’s body was too decomposed to be transported, so he and the family decided on cremation.

It took 20 days to get her remains to Canada.

“I just wanted her family to have something, so they could go somewhere and know where she is,” Dany said.

The family held a funeral and placed Liolli’s remains in a niche at a cemetery in Windsor, Ont. Afterward, they held a wedding for Liolli and Dany — they were common law wife and husband for years — complete with open bar.

“She’s home now,” her mother said.

Last week, Liolli’s family and friends gathered at Ryerson University in downtown Toronto to celebrate her life. Her former sociology professor, Jean Golden, has launched a fundraising campaign to help rebuild Every Child Counts — a vocational school for children with special needs in Abaco that Liolli helped build and run. The school was destroyed during the hurricane.

“Alishia’s dream will never be destroyed,” Golden said through tears.

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

First Journey Trails CEO Thomas Schoen (from left), Jimco Services’ James Doerfling, Williams Lake First Nation Chief Willie Sellars and Sugar Cane Archaeology’s Marvin Bob break ground on a new mountain biking trail network project at WLFN. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
WATCH: Williams Lake First Nation breaks ground on multi-use bike trail project

Phase one of the project will see the construction of a 1,750-metre hiking and biking trail

Kimberley case counts not at the point for 18 years and older community vaccination, says Interior Health. (File photo)
Many factors considered for smaller community-wide vaccination: Interior Health

East Kootenay resort town’s COVID-19 situation not at the point of community-wide vaccination, say officials

Kira Stowell rode her way to first place in the senior pole bending event at the combined High School Rodeo in Quesnel in the only event of 2020. All regional high school events have been cancelled, although there are still hopes for provincials. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
High school rodeo events cancelled

Rodeos were planned for Williams Lake and Quesnel in early May

The COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake campus is closed April 22, 23, Interior Health confirmed. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake COVID-19 vaccine community clinic closed April 22, 23

Interior Health said closure comes as all appointments caught up, or rescheduled earlier

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

BC Hydro released a survey Thursday, April 22. It found that many British Columbians are unintentionally contributing to climate change with their yard maintenance choices. (Pixabay)
Spend a lot of time doing yard work? It might be contributing to climate change

Recent BC Hydro survey finds 60% of homeowners still use gas-powered lawnmowers and yard equipment

Journal de Montreal is seen in Montreal, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The daily newspaper uses a file picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in traditional Indian clothing during his trip to India to illustrate a story on the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Montreal newspaper blasted for front-page photo of Trudeau in India

Trudeau is wearing traditional Indian clothes and holding his hands together in prayer beside a caption that reads, ‘The Indian variant has arrived’

Nanaimo RCMP say a man was injured while pouring gunpowder on a backyard fire in Harewood on Wednesday, April 21. (File photo)
Nanaimo man hospitalized after pouring gunpowder onto backyard fire

RCMP investigating explosion in Harewood also came across a still for making alcohol on property

Most Read