Seth Wells and Danielle Theophile hid in their bathtub when the tornado came ravaging through their Cookeville home

By Joelle Goldstein
March 04, 2020 02:42 PM

A Tennessee couple who miraculously survived a deadly tornado on Tuesday is recalling the frightening moments when the storm came ravaging through their community and sent them flying through the air.

Seth Wells and Danielle Theophile said they took shelter inside their home’s bathtub as soon as they learned that a tornado was heading towards the Putnam County area, CBS This Morning reported.

However, as the storm gained momentum and strength, the couple was lifted into the dark skies and violently tossed around, before landing a considerable distance away from where their Cookeville home once stood, according to the outlet.

“I have no clue how we survived,” Wells told CBS This Morning. “Like Wizard of Oz.”

It was around 1:50 a.m. when Wells said he received a tornado warning on his phone that jolted him from his sleep, according to the outlet.

“And that’s when I heard it. It was this deep roar, rumbling sound that I’ve never heard before,” Wells recalled to CBS This Morning, adding that he and Theophile quickly sought shelter in their bathtub.

Property in Cookeville
Brett Carlsen/Getty

Their bathtub safe haven was soon destroyed as Wells and Theophile, desperately clinging to each other, were picked up and carried away by the violent storm.

“We were flying in the air, into the trees back there, where once we hit those trees, the house… it just exploded,” Wells explained to CBS This Morning. “The house just disintegrated.”

“I could feel myself lifting and flipping over,” Theophile added to the outlet.

By some miracle, the couple managed to survive the terrifying encounter with non-life-threatening injuries, despite reportedly being carried nearly 50 yards away from their original Cookeville property.

Wells only suffered bruises, while Theophile had several bruises and cuts on her face and required 15 stitches due to her forehead getting “split open,” according to CBS This Morning.

As they focus on their physical and emotional recovery, Wells and Theophile said the dramatic ordeal has given them a strong sense of appreciation for each other.

“We’re not gonna let go,” Wells said as he held Theophile’s hand. “Not after this, not ever. We’re not letting go.”

Damage from the tornado
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Officials confirmed on Wednesday that the death toll from the twisters had climbed to at least 24 people, while at least 38 people remain missing.

Of the 24 fatalities, 18 were Putnam County residents, and five children under the age of 13 died, Putnam County Mayor Randy Porter told reporters.

The first tornado was reported Tuesday around 12:38 a.m. CST, moving east about 45 mph, the National Weather Service said. Two more touched down in Putnam County, 80 miles east of Nashville.

In downtown Nashville alone, about 40 buildings collapsed, the Nashville Fire Department said. Schools, businesses and one popular concert venue were all reduced to rubble. Other areas that have reported damage include Hermitage, Mt. Juliet, and Germantown.

In response to the devastation, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee declared a state of emergency and sent the National Guard to assist with search-and-rescue efforts, the Associated Press reported.

“Nashville is hurting, and our community has been devastated,” Mayor John Cooper tweeted following the destruction. “Be sure to lend a helping hand to a neighbor in need, and let’s come together as a community once more.”