Midwest Storm Leaves Tennessee Victims Crushed by Debris

Tornado left victims buried under flattened homes.


KRISTIN M. HALL, Associated Press | | Friday, March 2, 2012

CROSSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The brother-in-law of a woman killed in Wednesday's storms said he found her under some debris and held her hand until paramedics arrived.

George Jones said his sister-in-law, Melissa Evans Beaty, had been at home in her double-wide mobile home with her husband, son and two grandchildren when the storm hit.

Jones, who lives about 5 miles away, was one of several family members gathered on Thursday at the destroyed home in the Rinnie community outside the small city of Crossville, about 110 miles east of Nashville.

Beaty, whom they called Lisa, was alive and asking about the children when he found her, he said.

The children were OK, Jones said, but Beaty's husband, Ricky, was taken to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville in critical condition with a fractured pelvis and severe head trauma.

The home was completely destroyed, with pieces wrapped around nearby trees.

"We would give anything to have Lisa back," Jones said.

Beaty was one of three Tennessee residents killed in the storms, which had winds of up to 125 mph. Another was a grandmother who had taken refuge in the basement of her wood and brick home, according to a fire official.

Family members identified the woman as Carolyn Jones, also of the Rinnie community.

Chris Smith, deputy Crossville fire chief, said when rescuers arrived shortly after the tornado struck about 6 p.m., they heard the voice of her husband, Harold Jones, calling out from under the flattened house.

"He was able to call out to the firefighters," Smith said. "But he was buried underneath a lot of debris."

Smith said Harold Jones had been on his way down to the basement when the storm destroyed the house. He told rescuers his wife was in the basement. About 45 minutes later, they recovered her body, Smith said.

Their grandson, Spc. Steven Skaggs, a soldier stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky., said Harold Jones was hospitalized with fractured ribs, a black eye and bruises. Skaggs and other family members wept while they tried to salvage what they could from the debris.

The body of one victim, a woman, remained trapped Thursday in the remains of her Smithville home, which authorities said was thrown over a hillside onto a steep and unstable embankment. Her name has not yet been released.

Keith Garrison, emergency management director for Cumberland County, said five people were treated at hospitals for injuries.

Smith said donated storage units were to be delivered to those whose homes were damaged so they could store their possessions before Friday, when forecasters predict another line of storms could go through the same region.

"We have another storm system approaching that they say may be more intense," Smith told family members at the Jones home.

Bunny Howe, 63, is a neighbor of the Beatys whose twin 9-year-old grandsons were with her during the storm. She said she put the boys in a bathtub in the center of the house as she watched the storm pick up one of her horses in the back yard and set it back down.

Next the wind overturned the tractor from a tractor-trailer in her front yard.

"When it picked up the semi, I went and got on top of the children," she said. She held the bathroom door shut with her feet.

Howe said the children asked her, "'Ma. What are we going to do?'" and she told them, "We're going to pray."

The tornado tore off a wall of the Howes' garage, damaging a 1967 Camaro and a 1965 Chevelle that the couple was restoring. It also toppled a tree onto the roof.

Howe said she is not overly concerned about the storms predicted for Friday.

"What's it gonna do? Take the rest of the house down?" she asked.

The National Weather Service confirmed Thursday the storms were tornadoes. The Cumberland County twister reached speeds up to 125 mph and had a five-mile track. In DeKalb County, speeds were up to 90 mph with a 13-mile track.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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