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Friday 8 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C

Fatal Alabama tornado: 7 members of one family and four children among victims

The four children who died in the tornado were aged 6, 8, 9 and 10.

THE NAMES OF the 23 people killed in the deadliest US tornado in nearly six years were released by the coroner today, revealing that one extended family lost seven members.

Among the victims were four children, including 6-year-old Armando Hernandez Jr, who was torn from his father’s arms; and 10-year-old Taylor Thornton, who was visiting a friend’s home when the twister struck.

Jimmy Lee Jones, 89, perished along with his wife of six decades, Mary Louise, and one of their sons.

“Just keep those families in your prayers,” Lee County Coroner Bill Harris said, two days after the disaster. 

Meanwhile, the search for victims in and around the devastated rural community of Beauregard continues; seven or eight people are still missing.

“We’ve got piles of rubble that we are searching just to make sure,” said Opelika Fire Chief Byron Prather Jr. “We don’t think we’ll find nobody there, but we don’t want to leave any stone unturned.”

About the victims

Deep South Severe Weather Photo Gallery Dozens of volunteers help sort donated supplies for those affected by the tornado.

AJ had taken shelter in a closet with his father and older brother when the tornado hit, said Jack Crisp, the boy’s uncle. The punishing winds tore the family’s home apart, Crisp said, and pulled both boys from their father’s arms.

“He had them squeezed tight, and he said when it came through, it just took them,” Crisp said. “It just demolished the house and took them.”

The boy’s father and brother both survived.

Jackie Jones said she and her siblings rushed to her parents’ house after the storm passed and nobody answered the phone. “They usually answer on the first ring,” she said.

The siblings found the home reduced to its foundation. One of their two brothers who lived at the house survived and was taken to a hospital. But Jimmy Lee and Mary Louise Jones, married for more than 60 years, had died along with their 53-year-old son Emmanuel.

The body of David Wayne Dean, aged 53, was found by his son in a neighbour’s yard after the twister demolished his mobile home. 

“He was gone before we got to him,” said his sobbing widow, Carol Dean, who was at work at Walmart when the storm hit.

My life is gone. He was the reason I lived, the reason that I got up.

About the tornado

Tornado Forecasting AP / PA Images AP / PA Images / PA Images

It was the deadliest tornado to hit the US since May 2013, when an EF5 twister killed 24 people in Moore, Oklahoma.

The tornado brought winds estimated at 170 mph and carved a path nine-tenths of a mile wide in Alabama, scraping up the earth in a phenomenon known as “ground rowing,” the National Weather Service said.

It traveled a remarkable 70 miles or so through Alabama and Georgia, where it caused more damage. Ninety people were injured in the Beauregard area, authorities said.

President Donald Trump said he will visit Alabama on Friday to see the damage. “It’s been a tragic situation, but a lot of good work is being done,” he said at the White House.

Many of the people living in the area are senior citizens who moved to the country after retiring from textile mills or an old magnetic-tape manufacturing plant that closed years ago, it was reported.

Government teams surveying storm damage confirmed that at least 20 tornadoes struck on Sunday in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

Associated Foreign Press
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