Seven members of one family among 23 dead in tornado outbreak; Trump will head to Alabama

VIDEO: REUTERS

BEAUREGARD, Alabama (WASHINGTON POST) - Seven members of a single family were among the 23 killed in one of the regions hit hardest by deadly tornadoes that tore through the Southeast, officials said on Tuesday (March 5).

The names of the victims in Lee County, Alabama were released at a morning news conference two days after the tornadoes flattened homes and businesses.

The oldest was 89, and the youngest was a six-year-old boy named Armondo "AJ" Hernandez, county coroner Bill Harris said.

The seven family members were connected by marriage.

"Just keep those families in your prayers," Harris said. "I can't thank this community enough for jumping in there."

President Donald Trump said he plans to visit Alabama on Friday.

"Its been a tragic situation," Trump said from the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Tuesday afternoon. "But a lot of good work is being done."

Officials worked throughout the day on Monday to identify the dead, determine cause of death and notify the victims' families.

"I learned early that afternoon my resources would be overwhelmed," the coroner said.

 
 
 

He activated a statewide network of coroners who voluntarily came to Lee County to help expedite the process. By 10pm on Monday night, all the victims' bodies had been released to their families so they could begin funeral preparations.

Three members of the Stenson family were killed. When the storm hit on Sunday, Eric Stenson, 38, had been visiting his parents, Henry and Florel Stenson, 65 and 63 respectively. All three were killed.

"He was a good guy," Dusty Bell, 38, said of Eric Stenson. The two were neighbours growing up and played baseball together. Stenson, Bell said, was a "really good" shortstop.

Another victim, 53-year-old David Dean, was known around town as "Roaddog." How the man got this nickname remains a mystery to Wes Jones, 36, who said Dean had an infectious laugh and deep capacity for love.

"He was so funny," Jones said of Dean. "There was nothing bad when he was around."

As many as eight community members are still unaccounted for, officials said at the news conference. Search and rescue crews will continue combing through debris on Tuesday looking for signs of life from people and animals.

Hardly anyone was left untouched by the storm. Even if they survived or their home was left standing, they knew someone else who wasn't as lucky.

"It's just a weird feeling where you don't have no control. Nothing," said Bruce Britt, 52.

The tornado passed within a few miles of his home; he, his wife and daughter weathered the storm in their laundry room.

"And then you know that some people lost their lives," he said, shaking his head. "It's terrible, but you really can't put into words how bad it really is."