Venus, FL. - A Florida woman died Sunday after a tornado reportedly ripped through her home hurling her and her daughter through the air--landing nearly 200 feet away. Investigators say the woman's lifeless body was found grasping her young daughter to her chest.
Tropical Storm Debby lashed the gulf coast of Florida this weekend, causing extensive flooding and costly wind damage. The storm reportedly also sparked tornadoes in the state with one of the tornadoes claiming one woman's life in the Tampa Bay area.
According the Highlands County sheriff's office, a tornado moved through the Venus, FL. area in Highlands County Sunday afternoon. The tornado damaged several homes and ultimately caused the death of a local resident.
32-year-old Heather Town from Venus, FL. was pronounced dead at the scene after she and her daughter were literally ripped from their home by a tornado Sunday and thrown into a nearby wooded area. The two were found by neighbors wrapped in barbed wire atop a pile of debris.
Authorities said when first responders arrived at the scene, one person was found dead and another (Town's daughter) was found severely injured. EMS immediately rushed the surviving victim to a nearby hospital where she was promptly treated for her injuries.
Town's daughter, 3-year-old Ann Marie suffered cuts and bruises along with several broken ribs but doctors say she is expected to make a full recovery.
Neighbor Kim Bass was the first to hold the the little girl before paramedics arrived. Bass told Bay News 9, It was "the worst thing I have ever seen. To see a child like that, yeah. And knowing what she was going to be facing for recovery, and the loss of a parent."
Town's sister, Crystal Walker was reported as saying that words can not describe he sister's sacrifice. "Anyone that can hold on to their baby like that, I mean she was brave. To cling to her child, to keep her baby safe."
Town was also mother to two other children which were not at home when the tornado hit. Town's sister will now care for all three of the children.
Highlands Sheriff Susan Benton tried to put the tragedy into perspective when she told local news station WTSP, "The human story of this storm is the protection of a mother for her child; she never let go of her little one even in death."
Numerous homes in the area also suffered extensive damage, with the debris field created by the tornado extending several miles. The National Weather Service is expected to assess the overall damage cause by the twister sometime this week.