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Family survives storm in safe room as home destroyed

by Gavin Lesnick | April 28, 2014 at 3:05 p.m.
A family survived in this Vilonia home's safe room even as a tornado ripped apart the structure around it.

One Vilonia family escaped Sunday's tornado without injury even as a home was blown apart around them.

Nicky Havens said he first sent his three children to his in-laws' home across Oak Street because they had a small, metal safe room installed in the garage.

Havens and his wife joined the children and his wife's parents in the small space as the massive tornado moved into town.

"We seen it coming and we heard it coming, so we got in the safe room," he said. "It beat it pretty bad, but it worked. I'm proud of it."

The house didn't fare as well. The tornado winds ripped the roof off and downed its walls, sending splintered wood and crumbled brick around the yard. A car that had been parked next to the safe room had bricks thrown by the winds through its windows.

The family didn't talk while they "hunkered down" in the safe room, their "hearts thumping" as they listened to the tornado wreak its havoc on the home, Havens said.

"It felt like [the room] was just going to take off at any time," he said. "We knew the house was gone. You could hear it just take off."

On Monday, the family was back at their in-laws' home working to salvage what items they could. It was hard to see it in such shape, Havens said.

"But, hey, we're glad to be alive," he said said outside his nearby home, which was damaged but not destroyed.

Not everyone was so lucky, even those with safe rooms. Among the at least 14 people who died in the storm was a woman who was in a safe room, Gov. Mike Beebe told reporters.

"The house is gone, the safe room is still there, but she died in the safe room when debris hit the door to the safe room," he said. "She was doing everything she knew how to do. And still she lost her life."


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