Thunderstorm topples tree on home, killing Illinois woman

August 13, 2021 GMT

ROCKFORD, Ill. (AP) — A northern Illinois woman died this week when a thunderstorm toppled a tree onto her mobile home, killing her and trapping her boyfriend and two young granddaughters inside, authorities said.

Lorene Joy Gerken, 55, of Rockford died Wednesday morning when a tree blew over and crushed the back half of her mobile home, according to the Rockford Fire Department.

One of Gerken’s granddaughters was pinned to the home’s bathroom floor, and her boyfriend, trapped elsewhere, called out to the girls and told them not to move, Gerken’s sister, Patty Holbach, told the Chicago Tribune.

But officials said the younger granddaughter managed to get out out of the crushed home by herself and Gerken’s boyfriend and other granddaughter were soon rescued by firefighters.

Gerken, a mother of three, was the youngest of six children and she “lived for her family” and grandchildren, Holbach said. Her sister had been planning for her 56th birthday on Aug. 25.

“She was a big one on her birthday,” Holbach said. “I loved my sister with all of my heart.”

Gerken’s death is under investigation by the Rockford Police Department, and an autopsy is pending from the Winnebago County Coroner’s office.