Judge, grandma, outdoorsman among those killed by twisters
MAYFIELD, Ky. (AP) — An Amazon warehouse worker in Illinois who was an outdoorsman and avid motorcycle rider. A Kentucky judge known for his common sense. A “typical” grandmother from Missouri.
These were among the dozens of people killed during Friday night’s tornadoes that ripped through five states in the Midwest and South. There were more than a dozen confirmed deaths in Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and Tennessee, but those numbers were expected to rise. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has warned that his state’s death toll alone could exceed 100.
Experts say one of the twisters likely broke a nearly 100-year-old record for how long a tornado stayed on the ground in a path of destruction.
Here are some of the people who perished during the tornadoes.
Brian Crick, a judge for two Kentucky counties, was known for his sound judgment when it came to solving problems, a fellow judge said.
Crick, 43, was a district judge for Muhlenberg and McLean counties who handled criminal misdemeanor cases, traffic court and juvenile cases, said Circuit Judge Brian W. Wiggins. Wiggins said he has known his fellow judge since 2005, when Crick was a public defender. He later was in private practice before taking the bench in 2011.
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. “He had a very common sense approach. He was very level-headed about how to handle cases and how to talk to people.”
Wiggins is survived by a wife and three children, all of whom made it through the storm without major injuries, Wiggins said. “He was just a consummate family man ... very engaged with his children and his wife. They were number one to him.”
“We are especially heartbroken to get the news,” Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice John Minton said in a statement. “This is a shocking loss to his family, his community and the court system and his family is in our prayers.”
Two of June Pennington’s children said the Manila, Arkansas, resident was devoted to her four children and nine grandchildren and had a particular soft spot for animals.
Pennington, 52, was working as an assistant manager at a Dollar General store in nearby Leachville, Arkansas, when it was hit.
“She didn’t love anything as much in life as her kids and grandkids,” said Christie Pennington. “She was truly selfless and loved whole-heartedly.”
David Benefield, the oldest of June Pennington’s four children, said he was born when his mother was only 14.
“She was a kid raising a kid. We were just like best friends,” he said. “It’s crazy how close you become.”
Her children remember her as someone who “would do anything that we asked her to do,” Benefield said. Even after her children were grown, they said June Pennington wanted to spend as much time with them as possible.
Christie Pennington said her mother adopted dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, turtles and even a ferret.
“If there was ever an animal in need of a home, we took it in,” said Christie Pennington, who said her mom blamed her, even though her children knew better.
“That was just her way out,” Benefield said.
Clayton Lynn Cope, 29, had been working at Amazon for more than a year before he died at a company facility in southwestern Illinois.
Five other workers died at the facility located outside St. Louis.
Cope, who lived in nearby Alton, Illinois, had joined the Navy after graduating high school, and was an avid outdoorsman who also liked to ride motorcycles and play video games. He had a special place in his heart for his dog, Draco, said his younger sister, Rachel Cope.
“He would go out of his way for anyone,” Cope said in a written message.
Ollie Borgmann, 84, was a sweet and “typical grandmother” who had lived in her home in Defiance, Missouri for decades.
A tornado blew through the home she shared with her 84-year-old husband, Vernon, on Friday night, blowing the house off its foundation, as well as that of a neighbor’s house in the town located about 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of St. Louis.
Her son, Mark Borgmann, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that his brother, Keith, was on the phone with their father during the powerful storm when the line went dead. The next thing Vernon Borgmann remembers is waking up in a nearby field surrounded by debris. He suffered scratches and bruises but will be OK, said Mark Borgmann.
When Ollie Borgmann was found by rescuers, she was awake. She died later at a hospital.
Loller reported from Nashville, Tennessee, and Tareen reported from Chicago. Josh Funk contributed from Omaha, Nebraska, Mike Schneider contributed from Orlando, Florida, and Jeff Amy contributed from Atlanta.