Oklahoma tornado: Family at the centre of iconic image, captured walking away from wreckage of devastated school, identified

Picture of Cobb family staggering out of Briarwood Elementary school featured on front pages of newspapers across the world

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The Independent US

The family at the centre of an iconic image which captured the devastation caused by the F5 tornado that ripped through an Oklahoma suburb and killed at least 24 people, have been identified.

The powerful photograph of the bloodied Cobb family walking away from the devastated Briarwood Elementary School, in Moore, featured on front pages of newspapers across the world.

Steve Cobb was snapped carrying his nine-year-old daughter, Jordan, away from the wreckage, while his wife LaDonna, covered in blood, clutches the hand of a second child rescued from the school.

Speaking to ABC news, Mr Cobb said he “just tried to be the best dad I could be at that time.”

“I wanted her to feel that she was safe and that we were all going to be OK,” he said. “I wished I could have split myself into two and stayed there, tried to help out some of those other kids, because I could imagine how they were feeling at that time, you know, when their parents weren't there and they were kind of wandering around.

“It’s like you’re in a movie and it’s like everybody’s playing a part and we’re all acting or something like that – it’s just not – it doesn’t seem real to you that this is occurring.”

Mrs Cobb, a teacher at the school, said she knew she could leave any kids behind.

“Once the roof lifted off of the building I felt myself being sucked, and I knew if I was taken then all the little babies underneath me would be gone,” she said.

“So I just held on, I held on for dear life until the wall fell on top of me and knocked me out. I couldn't leave the other kids. They all are special to me and I couldn't leave them. I wanted my family to be safe but I also wanted everyone else's family to be safe too."

Jordan, who injured her leg, said she felt the tornado seemed to last “forever” and that the hardest moment was “trying to get up.”

“It seemed like it was an hour. Like, it was crazy, I mean, I can’t even believe we survived that.

“I tried to move the bricks off of my leg and it hurt so much and I was like, and the tornado had not left yet, I was just screaming help my leg my leg and no one could hear me.”

The family stayed at the school in an effort to help other children who had not yet found their parents. No pupils were killed at Briarwood but students at nearby Plaza Towers Elementary School were among the dead.

The search by emergency workers for survivors in the wreckage left by the huge tornado packing winds of 200mph or more, is coming to an end, according to officials.

Moore fire chief Gary Bird said he was almost certain there were no more bodies or survivors left in the rubble.

“I'm 98 per cent sure we're good,” he said.

Authorities said that the full scale of the damage was not yet known, and were yet to confirm how many homes were destroyed and families displaced. Bird said that by last night each home had been search at least once. No additional survivors or bodies have been found since Monday night, Bird said.

More than 230 people were injured, and 120 were being treated at nearby hospitals, about 50 of them children, according to local officials in Moore.

Monday’s was the fourth tornado to hit Moore since 1998. The following year an even more powerful F5, with winds of 250mph or more, killed 36 people. A tornado also struck in 2003.