16-y-o miraculously survives deadly Texas tornados, says ‘God gave me another chance’
A 16-year-old boy whose truck was flipped over by last week’s tornado in Texas, which killed a 73-year-old woman and injured dozens, said “God gave me another chance” and recounted his experience in a media interview after a video showing his ordeal went viral.
The teen, Riley Leon, was returning home after a job interview in his red 2004 Chevrolet Silverado when he was caught in the tornado in Elgin, Texas. The viral video shows his truck being picked up and thrown on its side like a piece of paper.
“I honestly didn’t know what to do, to grab onto the steering wheel or to start praying,” the teen told NBC 5. “On the video, it looks like I drove off but in reality I didn’t. I landed in the center of the road and I was just driving to get off the road.”
He said he’s “grateful I’m here.”
“[I’m] grateful God gave me another chance because better things are going to come in the future. Never let small things bring you down because bigger things are going to come,” he told KTBC-TV.
“It was my first time being in a tornado, and hopefully my last time,” Fox7 quoted him as saying.
The news outlet added that Leon was surprised in Fort Worth with a new car and a generous gift to his family.
Chevrolet, in collaboration with Bruce Lowrie Chevrolet of Fort Worth, gifted him a brand new 2022 Chevrolet Silverado. Lowrie also gave a $15,000 check to his family.
A GoFundMe page started for Leon has raised over $42,000 as of Tuesday afternoon.
“Riley is so lucky and blessed to have made it out of this terrifying incident," the page reads. "His truck was totaled, but for the most part, he is doing ok. Unfortunately, he has begun to experience body aches and severe back pain, as one would expect after this type of accident.”
Leon is “a lovely, bright student making plans to graduate next year and could genuinely use some love from our community and anyone else who may have viewed this video and prayed for the passengers,” said Bianca Jaimes, one of his teachers at IDEA Rundberg in Austin, Texas.
When the accident happened, the teen was on his way back home from a job interview at Whataburger, which has now offered him the job.
In Jacksboro, Texas, the principal of an elementary school thanked God for protecting more than 500 students and 50 staff who survived the tornado last Monday.
“We are just so blessed that God had His hand… God gave wisdom and courage to the adults,” Michael Qualls, the principal of Jacksboro Elementary School, said, adding that even the kids were not panicked.
Jacksboro High Principal Starla Sanders told Fox4 she was alerted about the storm turning severe about an hour before it hit. She allowed the 300 high schoolers who could drive to leave early, but the bus riders and all staff had no option but to take shelter.
Even as crews are now working through the rubble, the First Baptist Church, Fort Richardson Masonic Lodge and the Parish of Jacksboro are housing Pre-K through third-graders for up to a month, Texomas reported.
“What we are currently doing now is, we are gathering the materials that are useable at the elementary and putting them in totes and getting them over here to the Baptist Church so that this weekend the teachers can set up their classrooms,” Qualls was quoted as saying.
One of the survivors, 10-year-old Kenadee Sell, told News6, “Things happen, I know, but God saved us. God made this miracle happen; He saved our lives.”
Near the school, a 90-year-old woman, Francis Wilson, recalled how she survived after hunkering down inside a shower as the tornado destroyed the back half of her home, including the roof above her head.
“God had a hand in it; that’s the way I look at it,” Wilson told News6. “He had a hand over me because I shouldn’t have made it out of here.”
In North Texas, the tornado injured several people and destroyed homes, schools and businesses. The tornado caused extensive and widespread damage, particularly in Jack and Montague counties.