The parents and their three children -- all 2 or under, including one buckled in a car seat -- held hands on the hallway floor of their neighbor's mobile home, praying a fast-approaching storm would show them mercy.
Mother Nature answered with a fierce tornado, which violently swept them up, separated them and deposited them about 100 yards away. Four of their limp bodies were found soon thereafter. But for two days, hope lived on in the form of 14-month-old Angel Babcock, reports CNN.
Angel's death Sunday ended a hopeful tale for survivors in the Midwest and South and brought to 39 the number of people killed by the storms that devastated five states. As residents picked through the rubble and made plans to bury their dead, they also began trying to find a semblance of normalcy as officials continued to assess the damage.
The National Weather Service in Louisville, Ky., said the tornado that struck New Pekin measured an EF-3 on the enhanced Fujita scale, while another tornado that struck nearby Henryville, Ind., measured an EF-4 and packed winds of 175 mph, according to Washington Post.
Cis Gruebbel, chief nursing officer at Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville, said the toddler died in the pediatric intensive care unit from extensive head and neck injuries. "The family made the most difficult decision of their life this afternoon to remove life support," Gruebbel said, adding that the toddler had surgery Friday night to relieve swelling on her brain. But her brain continued to swell, she said, and "there was nothing else medically we could do."
On Sunday, extended family members had kept a vigil at the girls' Louisville bedside, where Angel had been in critical condition since she was airlifted there on Friday. Gruebbel said some family members were with Angel when she died a few minutes life support was removed, says Reuters.
Angel's condition deteriorated Saturday at Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville until there was no sign of brain activity, said chief nursing officer Cis Gruebbel. Her surviving relatives made the decision to end life support Sunday. Her death brings the overall toll from the storms to 39 across five states. Rescuers were still going door-to-door in rural areas to rule out more victims.
Across the region, people gathered Sunday to worship, comb through piles of debris and learn what happened to loved ones and friends. "It's horrible. It's things you take for granted that aren't there anymore," said Jack Cleveland, 50, from Henryville, Ind, informs San Francisco Chronicle.