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'Sheer panic': Wife of Maine man killed in storm says he died on daughter's 5th birthday

Gary Philips was on the phone with his wife Hailee when a falling tree struck his vehicle.

SEARSPORT, Maine — The family of the only Mainer to die as a result of the Atlantic storm Lee this weekend is remembering him as a loving father and friend.

Gary Philips, 51,  of Winterport was killed when a falling tree struck his vehicle on Route 1 in Searsport Saturday.

"I just want him to be remembered for that person who would do anything for anyone he loved," Hailee Phillips told NEWS CENTER Maine on Monday. 

Philips says she was on the phone with her husband at the time of the incident to tell him about downed lines. He was on his way back from a quick trip to the gym. 

She heard the crash and knew something was very wrong. 

"That sheer panic of knowing something had happened and not knowing if he was ok," Philips said. "I don't even know how long it was from the time I had to hang up and call 911 to finding out he had passed. I don't know how long, but it felt like an eternity. And it's definitely made it harder because it just keeps replaying in my head."

When they got to the scene, police discovered a large portion of a tree had broken off from the wind and had landed partially on the roof of the Philips' vehicle.

Rescue crews could not get to him quickly because of active power lines brought down by the tree. Gary Philips later died at the hospital. 

His wife said it all happened on their daughter's fifth birthday, forcing family members to swoop in to salvage planned celebrations before delivering the news. 

Already, there has been an outpouring of support from all across the state. Community members, friends, and total strangers have raised over $20,000 through a GoFundMe page.

"It's overwhelming. It really is. I just want to thank everyone for their support through this," Hailee Philips said. 

If you would like to help support the family, click here. 

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