A Kentucky judge, an 84-year-old woman, and a three-year-old are among the victims of the devastating tornadoes that swept through six US states on Friday night.
As rescue teams comb through the wreckage left by the tornadoes, people who lost their lives are being identified throughout several state agencies, bringing more grief to communities that were already left battered by the disastrous weather.
Dozens of deaths have been confirmed across Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and Tennessee but Kentucky governor Andy Beshear warned on Sunday that his state’s death toll alone could exceed 100.
The district judge was identified as 43-year-old Brian Crick. Kentucky Circuit Judge Brian W Wiggins said Crick was known for his “sound judgement”.
“Many of the defendants who came before him weren’t represented by attorneys, and Crick was very good about seeing to it that their rights were protected,” Wiggins said, according to the Associated Press. “He had a very common sense approach. He was very level-headed about how to handle cases and how to talk to people.”
He added that Mr Wiggins “was just a consummate family man ... very engaged with his children and his wife. They were number one to him.”
In a statement, Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice John Minton said: “We are especially heartbroken to get the news. This is a shocking loss to his family, his community and the court system and his family is in our prayers.”
Ollie Borgmann, 84, was found by rescue teams in a field after her house was blown off its foundation by the sheer force of the tornado in Defiance, Missouri. Borgmann was taken to a nearby hospital where she later died.
The “typical grandmother” lived in her house with her 84-year-old husband Vernon Borgmann, who also suffered bruises and scratches, according to their son Mark Borgmann.
Their other son, Keith Borgmann, was reportedly on the phone with his father when the line went dead.
St Louis Post Dispatch reported that Borgmann’s one-car garage was gone and their white car overturned. The barn behind the home collapsed. Carpets and mattresses were in a pile surrounded by trees uprooted and fallen over.
Mayfield resident Angela Wheeler told WLWT-TV that when they got the warning, they rushed into the bathroom. “Like everybody says, it was like a roar and it shifted the house where we were at and almost made us fall into the basement,” she said.
They were trapped inside their home and eventually escaped from a window. A family across the street was screaming for help. Their home was levelled and their three-year-old son was killed, she said.
Mayfield resident Jamel Alubahr, 25, said his three-year-old nephew died and his sister was in the hospital with a skull fracture after being stuck under the rubble of their home, BBC reported. “It all happened in the snap of a finger,” said Alubahr, who is now staying with another sister in Mayfield.
It was unclear whether Alubahr’s nephew and the three-year-old who was living across the street from Ms Wheeler are the same.
Meanwhile, Kentucky governor Andy Beshear said: “I’ve got towns that are gone – that are just, I mean, gone. You go door-to-door to check on people and see if they’re okay. There are no doors. The question is, is there somebody in the rubble of thousands upon thousands of structures. I mean, it’s devastating.”
A tornado also hit an Amazon warehouse in Illinois and killed at least six people and search efforts for additional victims was continuing on Sunday.
Officials identified the six dead at the Amazon facility as Deandre Morrow, 28; Kevin Dickey, 62; Clayton Lynn Cope, 29; Etheria Hebb, 34; Larry Virden, 46; Austin McEwen, 26.
Hundreds of thousands of customers remain without power across several states.
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