LONE GROVE — Death shadowed every soul Wednesday in the Lone Grove area, where eight people died when a tornado dropped out of the rain and blackness with little warning.
State authorities on Thursday confirmed eight dead. Carter County Sheriff Ken Grace had previously said a ninth victim died at a Dallas hospital, but state emergency management spokeswoman Michelann Ooten said that is incorrect.
Donnie Holybee, 36, sat numb in his hospital bed at Mercy Memorial Health Center in Ardmore. His eyes were blurry from a window air-conditioner that slammed into the back of his head, but his recollection was hauntingly clear.
Holybee recounted how he huddled over his 65-year-old aunt, Patricia Mapp, as the storm approached. Bed-ridden with cancer and emphysema, Mapp was unable to be moved from her bed.
"Aunty said there was nowhere to go,” Holybee said. "So I just hugged her. I was scared. I told her, ‘I love you Aunt Pat.’ She said, ‘I love you, too.’ I asked her if there were any last words she wanted to say. That’s when the tornado hit.”
Mapp also survived the harrowing experience with only cuts and bruises.
Eight victims were taken to Craddock Funeral Home in nearby Ardmore on Wednesday because it was the only funeral home big enough to house all the bodies.
Medical examiners worked throughout the day notifying the next of kin, and positively identifying the dead — all of whom died from "blunt force trauma to the head,” according to state medical examiner spokeswoman Cherokee Ballard.
No names of victims will be released until the death certificates are signed, Ballard said.
learned the name of one victim, Tim Nevill, 36, of Lone Grove, from his parents, Earnest and Mary Nevill.
The family’s trailer home was blown away by the tornado.
Earnest Nevill was thrown into a field.
"I remember seeing Tim walk down the hallway, and then it hit,” Mary Nevill said tearfully.