Deadly storm kills 2 in camper at Sardis Lake

By The Associated Press

SARDIS — An elderly woman and a baby were killed after a massive tree fell on their camper as a storm with high winds battered Panola County, Miss.

Authorities tell The Commercial Appeal the woman and child, who have not been identified, were inside the camper at the Oak Grove campground at Sardis Lake off Mississippi Highway 315 when the tree fell late Monday afternoon, trapping the two inside the camper.

Panola County Emergency Management Director Daniel Cole said it took several local fire departments, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and emergency crews more than 30 minutes to cut their way through the large oak tree.

“We got the baby out fairly quickly, but it took us a while to reach the woman,” Cole said.

Cole says the woman was pronounced dead on the scene. The baby was taken to Tri-Lakes Hospital in Batesville where the child later died.

“These are weather-related deaths,” Cole said. “The entire area at Sardis Lake had numerous trees with huge limbs down throughout the area. This tree falling on the camper was not an isolated incident.”

Some storm damage was reported in DeSoto County, where planes and several hangars were damaged at Olive Branch Airport.

Authorities said the storm that knocked trees onto power lines and snapped utility poles leaving 800 customers throughout the county still without power Monday night.

Six buildings that include hangars at Olive Branch’s airport and several buildings at the city’s industrial park, both off of Hacks Cross Road, were damaged in the storm.

“Most of the damage is roof damage at the airport and industrial park,” said Olive Branch Fire Department Lt. Greg Hedrick. “No buildings collapsed, but the doors did fall down in at least one hangar.”

Ken Hammerton, owner of Air Venture Flight Center near the airport, said he and his employees had seconds to take cover before the brief, but powerful storm moved through the area.

“We were standing in the hangar looking out as the storm approached from the northwest, but then the winds got so strong we had to move quickly to the office,” he said. “We were lucky because a 25-foot-high part of the hangar wall is missing.”

Hammerton said a Cessna 172 was flipped upside down by the strong winds and another Cessna 172 was also damaged when a hangar door fell on the plane.

National Weather Service meteorologist John Sirmon said it appears the damage in Olive Branch was caused by straight-line winds that gusted up to 60 to 70 mph.

“We are still investigating to make sure there was no other activity other than the straight-line winds,” Sirmon said.