Man saves pregnant wife, six kids from tornado

Man saves pregnant wife, six kids from tornado

PANTEGO - A Beaufort County man, his 9 month pregnant wife and six kids all survived a tornado that threw their house 100 feet.

Monday evening, Mark Van Essendelft was in his home on Beech Ridge Road in Pantego when a neighbor called to warn him of a tornado in the immediate area. Van Essendelft said he went outside and into his barn after the call. He then heard a loud rumbling noise. When Van Essendelft went outside, he saw the twister what he estimated was 5 minutes from his home.

"So, I ran to the neighbors, told him the tornado's coming," Van Essendelft said. "I ran to the house and my wife and my children were in the bathtub. I told them 'Let's get in the ditch.' I have twin [two-year-old girls] I grabbed one of them and ran to the ditch."

Within moments the tornado passed through Van Essendelft's home and over the area him and his family were hiding in the ditch. He says a large tree injured his wife and rolled over the ditch.

Van Essendelft's house was destroyed. Within two hours nearly a hundred people showed up in the area of the destruction to help the victims. Firefighters from six departments picked through rubble and broken belongings of the Van Essendelft family.

"This is what's left after the tornado came through," said Pantego Fire Chief Derrick Myers. "We've had four or five residents that have been effected by this."

"As we were coming back from school on the bus," said Dawon Jones. "we looked back and could see it on the tree line." Jones was on his way back from school on the bus.

When he heard what happened he came to help the Van Essendelfts.

"It's going to take time, there's a lot of personal belongings they're going to have to replace," Jones said.

Van Essendelft's wife was sent to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville. She reportedly had cuts and bruises, but since she is pregnant, doctors were cautious. According to Van Essendelft, she returned home Tuesday.

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