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Oklahoma storms: 'My love, we're going to die'

An Oklahoma mother had unbuckled her seat belt to check on her crying baby when the powerful EF5 tornado struck along Interstate 40.
by Andrew Knittle and Nolan Clay Modified: June 5, 2013 at 10:16 am •  Published: June 4, 2013

“My love, we're going to die.”

Maria Pol Martin, 26, spoke those words to her husband Friday, seconds before the EF5 tornado pulled her and their newborn son from the family minivan along Interstate 40.

The mother and her 17-day-old baby, Rey Chicoj Pol, were among the eight victims of the tornado outbreak in central Oklahoma on Friday evening. At least 11 more people died because of flooding.

Her husband, Miguel Chicoj, and two other children, Juan Chicoj Pol, 5, and Tomasa Chicoj Pol, 1, were injured when the tornado tossed the white minivan into a field.

They landed upside down still buckled inside the crumpled minivan.

While they waited for the 2.6-mile-wide tornado to pass, Chicoj, 27, and Juan prayed.

Through an interpreter Tuesday, Chicoj recalled how he drove his family into the tornado's path by mistake.

The family rents a mobile home west of Hinton, where Chicoj works for a hog farm. The family came to Oklahoma City on Friday afternoon to check on insurance coverage Chicoj needed for minor hand surgery.

They started back to Hinton about 6 p.m. after buying groceries at a Buy For Less in Oklahoma City.

Chicoj said he had misunderstood a weather forecast on the radio, thinking the tornado danger would begin about 2 a.m. Saturday rather than 2 p.m. Friday.

“He thought he had plenty of time to make it home before anything happened,” said the interpreter, Diana Acosta, a friend.

Driving west on I-40, Chicoj pulled over for about 10 minutes in Yukon because of the approaching storm. He said he decided to keep driving after seeing other vehicles still going west.

He pulled over again near El Reno as the storm worsened.

His wife unbuckled her seat belt to try to comfort their baby who had begun crying, he said.

Chicoj said he saw the tornado approach. He described it Tuesday as “coming from all different directions.” He said he thought about backing up or turning around, but it was too late.

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by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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by Nolan Clay
Sr. Reporter
Nolan Clay was born in Oklahoma and has worked as a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1985. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials and witnessed bomber Tim McVeigh's execution. His investigative reports have brought down public officials,...
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