Toby Johnson lost his husband and father Tuesday night after an EF-3 tornado ripped through the LaSalle County city of Ottawa leaving destruction and grief in its path.
Toby and David Johnson were with their family in the backyard of a home on State Street when an uprooted tree came crashing down on them during the severe storms, officials said.
“We were walking over to my mom’s house to go down into the basement and we were half way across the driveway when the tree came through,” Johnson told NBC 5. “I ran out out to the street and I was asking for someone to call 911 and I went back and I threw myself over him so he wouldn’t get wet. I was trying to get the branches off and i couldnt do it. I couldnt save him.”
Tuntland, 76, was killed instantly, police said. Johnson was transported to OSF Saint Elizabeth Medical Center in Ottawa before being transferred by helicopter to OSF Saint Frances in Peoria, where he was pronounced dead at 4:54 p.m. Wednesday.
According to the Peoria County Coroner, Johnson suffered severe head trauma, resulting in his death.
For residents in the small tight-knit community, the pain is two-fold as they clean up the destruction left behind and mourn the sudden loss of their neighbors.
“He was a good guy,” Ottawa resident Cindy Ubanek said of 76-year-old Wayne Tuntland.
Another neighbor recalled seeing Tuntland walk his dog through the town every day.
“People say, ‘Why was he out here?’” neighbor Lisa Meyers said. “But I say, ‘Well, it came on quickly.’ We went into the basement when it hit.”
About a dozen other residents also suffered minor injuries.
Crews worked tirelessly overnight to fix and replace downed power lines and straighten snapped light poles. As of Thursday morning about 1,500 people in Ottawa were still without power.
Salvation Army volunteers spent the night walking the dark streets, handing out food and water.
“See these people that lost everything, there’s no reason to smile,” David Ghantous of the Salvation Army said. “[But] to see [others] helping out, handing them a sandwich or a bottle of water, really touches my heart.”
A GoFundMe page for David Johnson’s family has raised more than $2,000 so far.
Published at 9:21 PM CST on Mar 2, 2017 | Updated at 11:07 PM CST on Mar 2, 2017