Manitoba

Storm chaser recounts 'monster' tornado that killed 2, injured 1 near Virden, Man.

A storm chaser describes being close to the tornado that touched down near Virden, Man., on Friday as an "eerie calm" before the destruction that unfolded, leaving two 18-year-olds dead and another man injured.

'With a small community like this, it really hits home to everybody,' says mayor

Aaron Jayjack stands by metal debris on Saturday that cleanup crews piled up in a field where two people died the night before. He saw the tornado touch down near Virden, Man., on Friday and take out a farmhouse, plus two vehicles nearby. (Travis Golby/CBC)

A storm chaser describes being close to the tornado that touched down near Virden, Man., on Friday evening as an "eerie calm" before the destruction that unfolded, leaving two 18-year-olds dead and another man injured.

RCMP confirmed on Saturday that a man and woman, who were both 18 years old and from Melita — a community about 65 kilometres south of Virden — were pronounced dead at the scene. Carter Tilbury and Shayna Barnesky died after the tornado threw them from their vehicle.

Aaron Jayjack was out documenting the twister when he saw it engulf a farmhouse and toss two vehicles.

As he got closer, he was relieved to find nobody was in the house, but the more he looked around, the more damage he saw from what he calls "the monster."

"I yelled out to see if anyone was in [the rolled-over vehicle] and sure enough, I heard from the older gentleman that was in the red Jeep Grand Cherokee," Jayjack said in an interview with CBC News on Saturday.

RCMP say a 54-year-old man from Sioux Valley Dakota First Nation was taken to hospital with serious but not life-threatening injuries after the tornado touched down near Highway 83 and Road 50N in the Rural Municipality of Pipestone, just south of Virden.

Professional storm chaser Aaron Jayjack took this photo of the tornado near Virden, Man., on Friday night. (Aaron Jayjack/Twitter)

Jayjack said he and his partner called for help and waited with the man until first responders could arrive.

"At that point, we didn't know if there were other people who were injured or possibly deceased out there in the field," he said.

"It was terrible."

WATCH | A deadly tornado that touched down near Virden was caught on camera:

Witness Tammy Skelton captured the tornado as it touched down near her Virden, Man., home. 0:31

Tilbury and Barnesky had graduated from Melita Collegiate recently, according to the town's mayor, Bill Holden. He said the impact of their deaths in the community of about 1,000 people is far-reaching.

"They were a pair of nice, quiet young people. With a small community like this, it really hits home to everybody," Holden said.

"It's tough enough on everybody else, but I can't imagine what the families are going through."

For Holden personally, there aren't words.

"It's hard to believe. Just like everybody else, I'm just torn apart," he said.

RCMP have not released the name of the person who was injured.

EF-2 rated tornado

Late in the evening on Saturday, Environment and Climate Change Canada tweeted that the tornado was rated an EF-2 on the the Enhanced Fujita scale, which weather agencies use to measure the force of tornadoes. 

The six-point scale goes from zero (weakest) to five (strongest). 

A tornado touched down near Virden, Man., on Friday night. (CBC News)

Environment and Climate Change Canada confirmed winds within the storm cell gusted to 190 km/h.

Jayjack said it was strange to witness, because it wasn't raining and the winds were strongest closer to the tornado.

"It was kind of an eerie calm," he said.

About the Author

Rachel Bergen is a journalist for CBC Manitoba and previously reported for CBC Saskatoon. Find her on Twitter at @r_bergen or email her at rachel.bergen@cbc.ca.

With files from Bryce Hoye and Mohamed-Amin Kehel

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