2 killed, dozens injured by tornado in Van Zandt County

Two people were killed and more than 40 injured after an EF-3 tornado tore through the northeast Texas city of Van late Sunday.

The two fatalities, David and Brenda Tapley, were a husband and wife who lived in a mobile home. Neighbors told FOX 4 the husband was a retired Garland police officer. The couple had adult children who live in Texas and out of state.

At least 43 people were taken to hospitals with injuries ranging from minor to critical. Three of them have potentially life-threatening injuries

Originally, three people had been unaccounted for, but as of Monday night, all three had been located.

The storm hit around 8:45 p.m. Sunday. Van Zandt County Fire Marshal and Emergency Management Coordinator Chuck Allen said the warnings were issued and within minutes the devastation began.

Allen estimates between 50 and 100 homes or 30 percent of the city was damaged.

Gov. Greg Abbott has declared a state of disaster in multiple counties hit in recent days by severe weather that's included tornadoes, thunderstorms and heavy rains that brought flooding.


Abbott declared a state of disaster Monday in Bosque, Clay, Denton, Eastland, Gaines, Montague and Van Zandt counties. The declaration authorizes further mobilization of state resources to assist impacted communities.

Video from SKY4 showed residents hanging an American flag outside a home that was completely destroyed. Numerous homes had roofs torn off, trees were uprooted and power lines were downed.

Dwayne Cunningham said the twister actually picked up his house and threw it about 100 feet while he and several of his relatives were still inside. He's the only one not being treated at the hospital for various injuries.

"It was absolutely terrifying. There's really nothing I can compare it to at all. It's just extremely scare to know you may not see your family again. It's just scary," he said.

Another man talked about rescuing two neighbors who were picked up and thrown onto the street after the tornado hit their house.

"They were in the middle of the street right over here just laying on some rubble," Brian Kohler said.


Residents hardly had any warning. They lost power and then heard sirens.

"You could hear it," said Clyde Hays. "I put my flashlight up and it sounded like a lot of rain on the street and I'm looking and I don't see rain. And then I let go of the door, because you can always feel that suction, and I saw something in the back of my eye, and I see my wife walking behind me. And that door went like this, and I ran with her into the closet and that whole house raised up."

Hays then ran to his mother-in-law's house to find it in pieces and her in bad shape.

"Her ribs were broken, her shoulder was cut, her foot was turned all the way backwards and her brother, his head was banged up real bad," said Hays.

She was one of the 26 injured and is now in ICU in Tyler.

Many in Van spent Monday collecting what they could; happy they still have each other even if their homes are a mangled mess.

"Yes, this place looks absolutely horrendous, but it's just stuff and it can be and will be eventually replaced," said Chelsea Lenox, who lost the roof to her house.

Utility companies are working to restore "vital infrastructures," and road and bridge crews are working to open streets and highways to allow for first responder access, Allen said.

The city's cellphone tower was also destroyed and that has limited communications, he said.

Van Independent School District Superintendent Don Dunn said there was significant damage to the elementary and middle school buildings, as well as the administration building and bus barn.

All schools in the district were closed on Monday and will remain closed on Tuesday. The district plans to send its students to non-damaged campuses to finish out the final four weeks of classes.

About 50 people stayed overnight at a shelter at the First Baptist Church in Van.

Officials there said supply donations including bottled water and non-perishable food can be dropped off at the Van Zandt Community Center at 310 Chestnut Street. The Assembly of God Church at 409 N. Maple Street is also collecting clothing and blanket donations.


The Red Cross also opened a shelter in Sanger. It's located at the First Baptist Church at 708 South 5th Street, Sanger.

Many photos in the above slideshow, which were taken using a drone, are courtesy of Minuteman Disaster Response.

The American Red Cross is accepting monetary donations to help the victims. To help, visit RedCross.org, call 1-800-REDCROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10.

Those looking for loved ones in the area are encouraged to visit redcross.org/SafeandWell.

Van, which is located about 60 miles southeast of Dallas on Interstate 20, has about 2,600 residents.


Many photos in the above slideshow, which were taken using a drone, are courtesy of Minuteman Disaster Response.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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