[cifnmedia] Rescuers Find Eight Dead Day After Illinois Twisters

  • From: Sean & Kimberly Aaron <cifn@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: CIFN LIST <cifnmedia@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 22 Apr 2004 21:15:25 -0700 (PDT)


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Rescuers Find Eight Dead Day After Illinois Twisters 

AP Photo / M. Spencer Green

Rescue workers sift by hand through the debris of the Milestone Tap tavern 
early Wednesday April 21, 2004 that was demolished by a tornado that touched 
down in downtown Utica, Ill. Tuesday. Five survivors have been pulled from the 
wreckage and taken to hospitals, authorities said, and rescuers are searching 
for anyone else that might still be trapped.
WABC - New York

A crane continues to work through the debris at the Milestone Tavern, where a 
three-story building collapsed.
WABC - New York

A semi was blown into a river in Utica.
Associated Press

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UTICA, Ill. (AP) -- Rescue workers found the bodies of eight people Wednesday 
among the ruins of the country-western-themed watering hole. Nine people were 
rescued alive. 

When a twister tore through this small town, people bolted for the safest 
places they could find - for some, it was the basement of a local tavern, 
housed in a century-old building. But the foundation beneath the Milestone Tap 
was made of sandstone, and authorities say the rock crumbled under the 
tornado's power, killing the eight people. 

``These buildings are so old, the roof goes and the whole thing is going to 
go,'' said resident Greg Crabbe. ``They might have been better off going 
outside, but then you'd be hit by debris.'' 

Several people from a nearby trailer park were among those who sought shelter 
Tuesday night in the basement of the Milestone, Mayor Fred Esmond said. 

``They heard it on the radio. Some of them went to the tavern for safety, and 
it just so happened ... ,'' Esmond said, his voice trailing off. 

The building's crumbling sandstone foundation had slowed rescuers' efforts as 
they gingerly dug through the sandy rubble. Rescue workers used listening 
devices as they combed through the building's remains. 

Authorities were not aware of anyone else missing after the tornado, which 
turned other buildings into piles of brick and splintered wood in the town 
about 90 miles southwest of Chicago. 

The dead were identified by authorities as Larry Ventrice, 49; Marian Ventrice, 
50; Wayne Ball, 63; Beverly Wood, 67; Helen Menke, 81; Carol Shultheis, 40; 
Mike Miller, 18; and Jay Vezain, 47. All were from Utica. 

Esmond knew many of the victims. The Ventrices ran the tavern and lived above 
it, while Vezain worked for the grain elevator across the street. Ball was a 
retired railroad worker and Shultheis, his daughter, worked at another 
restaurant in town. He said Ball, Wood and Menke, who was retired, all lived in 
a trailer park near the tavern. 

Mary Jo Chapman, 52, lives in the trailer park. She also knew two other 

``Good people,'' she said. ``Good friends.'' 

Wendy Jurkas, 54, of Granville, knew Ball and Shultheis. 

``She would be here right now digging in to help people,'' Jurkas said of 

Gov. Rod Blagojevich visited Utica and other communities Wednesday and declared 
four counties disaster areas. Federal Emergency Management Agency officials 
planned to visit Thursday to see if they qualify for disaster relief. 

The tornado was a category F-3, which typically creates wind speeds of 158 to 
206 mph, said Andrew Krein, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. 

It was one of dozens that smashed through the Midwest. Indiana also was hard 
hit, and Iowa, Nebraska and Oklahoma reported twisters as well. A lightning 
storm hit Arkansas on Wednesday, striking a high school junior who died on his 
way to school. 

Authorities said three to six people suffered minor injuries in Jamestown, 
Ind., northwest of Indianapolis. Four tractor-trailers were reported blown off 

In Joliet, a city southwest of Chicago, the storm damaged a dozen homes in a 
historic district and collapsed a drug store roof. The storm also damaged about 
60 homes and a bank in Granville, officials said. 

But all the destruction couldn't dampen the spirit of lifelong Utica resident 
62-year-old Mike Payne. 

``They ain't going to take Utica away from us,'' he said. ``That's the way 
Utica is - you stick together.'' 

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Sean A. Aaron (CIFN*1)
Central Illinois Fire Network

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