Brothers, 3 and 8, Die When Tree Hits Family Car in Texas Tornado: They Were 'Joyful Children'
Siblings Jace and Dilynn were in the backseat of their family's car when a large tree hit the vehicle on Saturday
Two brothers, ages 3 and 8, are the youngest reported victims of a string of deadly tornadoes that ripped through the South over the weekend, according to multiple reports.
At least 17 tornadoes wreaked havoc on several states from Texas to Alabama and killed eight people, including Jace Creel, 3, and Dilynn Creel, 8, two young brothers who were pronounced dead after a tree fell on their family’s car Saturday afternoon in Pollock, Texas, according to NBC News and Reuters.
The family was heading home and trying to get out of the storm when they came across a tree blocking their path, KETK reported. They tried to avoid the tree when another fell onto the back of the family’s car, where Jace and Dilynn were seated.
“I said, ‘What’s wrong? What’s wrong?'” Joe Spangler, a neighbor who responded to the accident, told KETK of the boys’ mother. “She said, ‘Please help me. A tree is on my car. My babies are in the car, my babies are in the car.’ I saw her husband. He was running back and forth around a car, trying to move the limb which, I mean, it wasn’t going to be moved.”
Authorities with the Angelina County Sheriff’s Office have not named the victims, but revealed on Facebook that the children involved were pronounced dead at the scene. Capt. Alton Lenderman said the tree “flattened the car like a pancake,” the Associated Press reported.
“That’s not the right order for a parent to bury their child,” Spangler told the station.
A family friend, Kirsten Redd, has set up a GoFundMe page for the family.
“They were the most outstanding, respectful, happy, joyful children, you could ever imagine,” Redd told KETK.
Central Elementary Principal Anita Byrd shared on Facebook that the 8-year-old boy was a 2nd-grade student at her school.
The storm system even caused flash flooding in Louisiana, where 13-year-old Sebastian Omar Martinez drowned in a drainage canal near Monroe, according to the AP. Another person drowned in floodwaters in nearby Calhoun, the AP reported.
At least 17 counties are dealing with storm damage, according to AccuWeather, and Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency on Sunday and gathered emergency management teams to assess the damages. Dozens have been injured as a result of the storm system, AccuWeather reported.
An EF-3 tornado touched down in Franklin, Texas, destroying 55 homes, four businesses, a church, a duplex and part of a local housing authorities building, the AP reported.
A man in Hueytown, Alabama, died after being struck by a vehicle as he helped clear away trees, the AP reported. In northeastern Mississippi, Monroe County Road Manager Sonny Clay said 95-year-old Roy Ratliff died after a tree crashed onto his trailer, according to the outlet.
The Houston County Sheriff’s Office previously confirmed to PEOPLE that a 70-year-old woman, whom police have identified as Kathryn Baxter, died from storm-related debris at her home located in the eastern part of the Texas county.