Ellis County

Bystanders, First Responders Credited With Saving Lives Following Tornado

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In the chaotic first moments after a tornado moved across Interstate 35E, motorists became first responders, making their way through wreckage as rain poured down, helping to pull people from the debris.

“It’s pouring down rain, three inches an hour. A tornado just came through and people got out of their cars and started doing heroic acts, that’s just what happens down here in Texas,” said Ellis County Judge Todd Little.

Judge Little said in one case, the jaws of life were struggling to access the trapped driver of a semi – that’s when a contractor stepped in to help.

“The fireman on the scene tells me the contractor pulls out his saw and they start sawing through this semi to get this guy out,” said Little.

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In all, four people were injured and three transported to the hospital.

“My body feels okay, my knees and my eyes but everything feels okay,” said Jose Contreras, who was briefly knocked unconscious when his pickup was blown from the road. “I’m lucky right now that I’m okay,” he continued.

In the chaotic first moments after a tornado moved across Interstate 35E, motorists became first responders, making their way through wreckage as rain poured down, helping to pull people from the debris.

Multiple agencies from across Ellis County responded to the incident but struggled at times to make their way through traffic.

“We were trying to get there and couldn’t really get through because of the traffic,” said Ellis County Fire Chief Jake Escamilla.

Escamilla said a number of off-duty EMTs were among the first to assist those who were injured on the freeway.

“We ran into several EMTs that were off duty, living in other areas and they came in and helped out,” said Escamilla.

Ellis County Sheriff Brad Norman said he's not surprised to hear stories about good Samaritans.

"We definitely had a lot of activities that people went above and beyond to try to help their neighbor," said Norman.

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