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Published: Monday, 6/14/2010

Tornado claims sixth life; daughter now family's sole survivor

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The June 5 tornado has claimed a sixth victim.

Ryan Walters, 37, of Millbury, Ohio, died at 6:14 p.m. Sunday at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo, a hospital spokesman said.

Mr. Walters and his wife, Mary, 36, apparently were asleep in an upstairs bedroom of their Main Street house when the tornado struck. In that same part of the house were their children, daughter Madison, 7, and son Hayden, 4, according to family members.

The lone survivor of that foursome now is the little girl, who was released yesterday from Mercy St. Vincent after days of treatment for broken bones.

Mrs. Walters and the couple's son died shortly after the tornado struck.

Mr. Walters' uncle Jim Walters described the family as "the spit-tin' image of Father Knows Best," referring to the wholesome middle-class family depicted in the television show that was broadcast from 1954 through 1960.

"You know what I mean?" Mr. Walters, retired Lucas County solid waste director, said while sitting on a fallen pole last Tuesday outside the family's house. "They were the best. Just the best."

Ryan Walters, a long-distance runner, was admitted to the hospital in critical condition.

"Why do such bad things always happen to such good people?" Jim Walters asked while weeping outside his nephew's home.

Moments before, Jim Walters had pleaded with Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and Millbury Mayor Michael Timmons for help in getting a pump to remove water from the basement of his nephew's house so the family could salvage whatever was left.

The house where Ryan and Mary Walters lived with their children was apparently in the direct path of at least one tornado, and it was flattened to the foundation.

Winds in excess of 165 mph whipped through portions of Wood and Ottawa counties, carving an eerie path through woods on Main Street in Millbury while leveling homes and scattering remnants of them in all directions. One man who survived the ordeal said the twister sounded like a freight train plowing through his house.

The storm was one of northwest Ohio's worst ever. Mr. Strickland, who likened the site to that of a war zone, has declared a state of emergency and is trying to get federal assistance from President Obama for anything from cleanup to counseling.

The others killed include Ted Kranz, 46, who died after part of his Case Road home fell on him after he left his basement to check on a generator; Wauseon resident Kathy Hammitt, 56, who was en route for home along State Rt. 795 after visiting her husband at a nearby hospital, and Bailey Bowman, a 20-year-old mother of a 2-year-old boy. Miss Bowman and her boyfriend, Gerald Lathrop, 20, saw the tornado from a minivan. They sought shelter at the Lake Township police building. Mr. Lathrop got out. Miss Bowman's body was found near the minivan. Her son was with a relative when the two of them went through the ordeal.

Contact Tom Henry at:

thenry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6079.



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