Sunday 20 October 2019

How quick thinking saved family from almost certain death

David Usborne

When the sirens started their ominous song, Pete Prieto barely looked up. "Here comes another hailstorm," he remembers saying to himself.

When his wife, Diane, declared she was worried enough to drive to school to pick their kids up, he sighed. "They are going to be fine," he told her.

Diane didn't listen. Because she didn't listen, their children, Monica (10) and Lavontey (12), are still living. Because she didn't listen, two other children in the school are still living. And because she didn't listen, so too is Pete.

No one can know how many decisions were made across the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore as Monday's tornado bore down. Decisions that, for many, were life or death.

When decisions are made, luck can be good or bad. Megan Futrell also jumped in her car to fetch her child from school. In her case, outrunning the twister was impossible.

It wasn't long after his wife had gone that Pete Prieto (31) was looking at the sky and got the message. There, suddenly, was the tornado. He sprinted into the house and padded himself with pillows before, boom. "The force knocked me backwards."

The house had been destroyed and Pete was buried. "I really thought I was going to die," he says.

Diane had made it to the Plaza Towers Elementary School just before it took a direct hit. She held tight to the foot of a lavatory stall, shielding her children and the two other pupils.

Minutes later, all were pulled from the wreckage where the bodies of seven children would later be found. She made another decision. She ran home. The house was gone.

A piece of concrete pinning him down, Pete was conscious but he wasn't shouting. He had been like that for over 30 minutes and he was losing hope. "I didn't want to waste my breath by calling out and I was trying to stay calm."

But then he heard a voice he knew. It was Monica, his daughter. "I yelled at the top of my lungs," he said.

He and Diane have nothing left. The house, their cars, all their clothes are gone. But because of what Diane did, everyone is alive. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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