PIEDMONT — Family members joined emergency responders Wednesday in the search for Ryan Hamil, a 3-year-old boy missing after a tornado demolished his home, killed his brother and injured his mother and sister. They were all apparently trying to shelter in a bathtub when the twister hit.
Piedmont's mayor also announced Wednesday night that the search for Ryan has widened, to include Kingfisher and Logan counties, as well as Canadian County.
Ryan's 15-month-old brother, Cole, died in the hospital after the tornado Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the state medical examiner said. The mother, Catherine Hamil, 36, was listed in fair condition Wednesday at OU Medical Center.
Her 5-year-old daughter, Cathleen, was hospitalized in critical condition.
Amber Bickley, a cousin of Catherine Hamil, said she and her husband, Colby, were among numerous relatives helping in the search at Falcon Lake in Piedmont.
Standard tornado advice is to shelter in an interior room, such as a bathroom.
Bickley was told Hamil followed this advice by getting in the tub with her children, but the house blew apart around them. “It's completely leveled,” Bickley said.
Catherine Hamil's husband, Hank Hamil, operates a custom harvesting business and Catherine is a stay-at-home mom, Bickley said. Hank Hamil was not at home when the tornado hit.
The Rev. Carlos Casavantes, pastor at St. Damien of Molokai Catholic Church of Edmond, where the Hamils attend church, said he visited briefly with some relatives at the hospital. Catherine Hamil's mother took one of the sons to church Sunday and he was given a blessing.
Casavantes spoke with Catherine Hamil before she went into surgery Wednesday morning. “She, of course, was distressed ... and undergoing surgery, and worried for her husband,” he said.
Hank Hamil was at the intensive care area at The Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center but left before Casavantes got to speak with him, the priest said.
“It is my understanding he went back out to Piedmont to continue searching for the missing child,” Casavantes said.
Piedmont Mayor Valerie Thomerson said searchers listened overnight for any signs of a child in distress.
New search area
In a release sent to the media Wednesday night, Thomerson announced the new search area, and also said that Piedmont Emergency Management has turned over command for the search and rescue mission to the Canadian and Kingfisher County Emergency Management. She added that anyone with information should contact the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
Because of the new deployment of resources, Thomerson said the city will shift its focus “to rebuilding our community.”
About a dozen homes in Falcon Lake were destroyed. The housing addition northeast of Sara and Waterloo roads.
“We have dog teams on the ground, divers, boats and vehicles looking now,” Canadian County Sheriff Randall Edwards said Wednesday morning.
Searchers from several other agencies were helping Piedmont police and fire departments with rescue dogs, the mayor said.
A fund was set up for contributions for disaster relief, said Eric Anderson, senior vice president of F&M Bank in Piedmont. The “Piedmont Chamber of Commerce for the Benefit of Tornado Victims” fund already had several donations, he said. The money will be dispersed to a local charity, he said, probably United Way of Canadian County.