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Oklahoma tornadoes: El Reno tornado victims drove into chaos

At least seven of the nine people identified as victims of Friday's tornadoes in Oklahoma were killed because they were in vehicles, authorities said.
by Andrew Knittle and Nolan Clay Published: June 2, 2013

As tornadoes spun across central Oklahoma on Friday, thousands of panicked residents tried to outrun the storm in their cars on flooded streets and highways.

They drove into chaos.

Interstates already packed with rush-hour traffic became parking lots. And, as the first and most powerful of the five tornadoes hit near El Reno, inside a car became a dangerous place to be.

Seven of those killed by tornadoes Friday were in vehicles in Canadian County, the sheriff there said.

“I don't know why that is,” Sheriff Randall Edwards said. “I think it just happened so quick people couldn't see the funnel or whatever.”

So far, the death toll from Friday's tornadoes stands at nine people — two children and seven adults, the medical examiner's office reported.

Two of the tornado victims remained unidentified late Saturday afternoon. The medical examiner's office did not release any of the names of the dead.

Among those killed were a mother and a baby who were in a sport utility vehicle on Interstate 40, near Cimarron Road, authorities said.

Their vehicle was sucked up into the tornado, Oklahoma Highway Patrol spokeswoman Betsy Randolph said.

“We had troopers who actually witnessed this happen,” Randolph said. “It was a mom, dad and three children. The mom and the baby did not survive but the dad and the two other children did.”

Also killed on or near I-40 was Dustin Bridges, 32, his brother-in-law, Tracy Allen, said.

“He was just right in the path … It got him and a co-worker that was in the same vehicle with him,” Allen said.

Bridges is from Wilburton but stayed in an apartment in Yukon during the week because of his work for an oil field equipment company. His brother-in-law said the co-worker survived.

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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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