Nine-Year-Old Dies in Missouri Tornado Moments After Mother Texted Photo From 'Safe Space'
04:17 GMT 15.12.2021 (Updated: 04:22 GMT 15.12.2021)
A Missouri family had their world turned upside-down over the weekend when a devastating twister consumed their home and caused the death of 9-year-old Annistyn Rackley.
At the time, the family had been hiding inside a windowless bathroom in their home near Caruthersville, Missouri, that they believed was a safe space to wait out the looming storm.
However, just moments after mom Meghan Rackley snapped a picture of the group hiding out, disaster struck. Some 15 minutes after the photo was texted to a family member, the tornado arrived and completely destroyed the residence.
"They were sucked up into the tornado", Sandra Hooker, the child's great aunt, told the Associated Press during a telephone interview. Hooker was the family member who had received the photo before mayhem consumed the area.
The photo showed a smiling Annistyn along with her younger sisters - Avalinn, and Alanna - clutching her favourite doll, which she lovingly referred to as Baby MawMaw.
Hooker told the outlet that the Rackleys' home was completely "splintered".
"There's debris strewn forever out in the field, and so they were sucked up into the tornado", she detailed.
Speaking to medical professionals at a Memphis hospital, seven-year-old Avalinn told officials that she had been praying for the tornado to "spit me out".
In the end, the force of the twister threw the family yards from their home and into a muddy field, where first responders were later able to help them. However, the family would later be informed that the eldest of the children - Annistyn - did not survive.
Hooker, who was one of the first to arrive at the scene following the tragedy, has remained in close contact with the Rackleys. She described Annistyn, who suffered from a rare liver disorder, as a "special angel".
While dad Trey and Alanna survived the incident without major injuries, the same could not be said for Meghan or Avalinn, who suffered a broken vertebrae and is expected to undergo surgery Wednesday.
A searcher on the scene had found Annistyn's Baby MawMaw. "They brought Baby MawMaw to me, and I'm cleaning her up so that Ava can have Baby MawMaw", Hooker said.
A prayer vigil was held on Sunday near the field where the Rackleys were found by authorities.