March 1, 2007--Posted at 10:30 p.m. CST
HOWELL COUNTY, MO--Howell County in southern Missouri is picking up after a tornado ripped through the region, killing a seven-year-old girl and destroying several homes and businesses.
Seven year-old Elizabeth Croney was inside when the tornado picked up her family's mobile home with her inside. The Croney's lived just outside of West Plains. Croney's mother, father, and brother were all transported to the hospital.
Because of downed trees, it took paramedics and relatives over an hour to reach the Croney's home. The Croney's Mobile home is located by a salvage yard the family runs. When loved ones arrived and first surveyed the scene it was something they say they will never forget.
"I was in shock, the house is gone," said relative Lacey Gunter.
However, after Thursday morning's tornado all Gunter and other family members can do is sift through the rubble.
"Looking for pictures, pictures, all of their pictures, their checkbook and personal stuff they are going to want," said Gunter.
The contents of the Croney's home are scattered across their lot, but there is one bare spot, it's where their home used to be located. One thing that the family has been unable to find is the frame of the Croney's mobile home.
"It appears to be one long path where the tornado would go down and come back up, several houses a few businesses and then this here is the worst," said Howell County Sheriff Robbie Crites.
According to Crites 15 to 20 homes and businesses were also affected by the tornado. While the loss of seven year-old Elizabeth Croney is tragic it could have been much worse.
"It narrowly missed a couple of large mobile home parks. We were fortunate, it ran just a few hundred yards south of Fairview school which has probably 700 to 800 elementary aged students there," said Crites.
As relatives rummage through the remains, they know what few possessions they can salvage are all the more important.
"Very valuable, that's all they are going to have left is the pictures," said Gunter.
Pictures and memories of better times to help cope with the loss of a young girl with a bubbly personality and a bright smile.
"She was beautiful, oh she was beautiful, she was so sweet, and never seen her cry," said Gunter.
Elizabeth Croney attended Fairview school just up the road from her home. Her brother and father were both airlifted to a Springfield hospital.