A mattress and a miracle are being credited for sparing the life of a 14-month-old boy sucked out of his home — crib and all — and thrown 40 or 50 feet by a powerful tornado that struck a sleeping Michigan family on Friday.
By the time Joe Soyring and a neighbor found little Blake whimpering beneath his mattress, Soyring already had come across the mangled remnants of his son's crib and knew that his Millington, Mich., home was destroyed.
“Luckily the mattress was still over him. That's probably what saved him,” Soyring said during an appearance Monday on TODAY.
Soyring and his wife, Nicole Opperman, had just retired after they thought that the evening's tornado scare had passed with the 12:45 a.m. expiration of a warning by the National Weather Service.
“We thought it was OK to go to bed. The tornado hit the house about 1:20 in the morning,” Soyring said.
While Opperman scrambled to gather up Blake and his 3-year-old sister, Mikayla, Soyring had his hands full hanging onto the bedding. The couple's single-story house was shaking violently.
“The roof was getting ripped off. The floor started giving way under the bed,” Soyring recalled. “I was trying to hold onto the mattress to stay up. It ended up sucking me through the floor, down into the basement. The walk-out basement doors were already blown out from the pressure. It sucked me into the back lawn.”
Opperman was not doing much better. She was looking for the children, but debris was flying everywhere.
“I was on my way to go get them, and everything start falling down,” she said. “I kept trying to get to them and I couldn't.”
‘Out of nowhere’
When the twister moved on, both Soyring and Opperman immediately began calling out for the children. Just then, Mikayla appeared.
“Part of her bed was found over in our neighbor's yard. We don't know where she came from,” Opperman said. “She just came out of nowhere.”
Soyring and a neighbor were searching for Blake for about 10 minutes when the neighbor thought he heard something. They stood silent for a moment, and then heard the baby sort of whimper.
Digging through a huge pile of rubble, they found Blake's mattress and turned it over. The child had a cord wrapped around his neck, so wasn't able to cry or yell very loudly. Blake sustained cuts and bruises, but otherwise escaped the incident unscathed.
“They're just bumped up. They've got scratches and bruises all over them, but they're doing really good,” a thankful Opperman said of her children.
The family is living at a Best Western for now, and are driving a loaner offered to them by a local car dealership. It'll take them a long time to rebuild their home, but they take comfort in the fact that their young family is still intact, healthy and together.
Eight tornadoes claimed at least six lives in Michigan and Washington State, according to the Associated Press.
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