‘I thought I was going to die’: Man who survived deadly Manitoba twister sees 2nd tornado in 1 week

By | August 14, 2020

James Blacksmith couldn’t believe it was happening again — for the second time in a week, and the third time in his life, the 54-year-old found himself looking at a tornado Thursday night.

Blacksmith is still wearing a neck brace after a deadly tornado near Virden, in southwestern Manitoba, sent his truck flying last week.

Melita’s Shayna Barnesky and Carter Tilbury, both 18, were killed in that tornado. They were on the road just behind Blacksmith when the twister hit.

On the night of Aug. 7, Blacksmith — who is from Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, west of Virden — was driving home on Highway 83, just south of the town, when he saw a dark cloud in the sky ahead of him.

“I guess I drove right into it,” he told CBC News in an interview Friday.

Heavy rain and hail forced him to pull into a nearby farmyard under two large trees. That’s when he saw another truck pull in beside him.

Suddenly, the other truck reversed, and when Blacksmith looked out his front window, the tornado was upon him. 

“It happened so fast, I thought I was going to die,” he said. “All I could see was my windows were smashed out, I seen my truck twirling, and then I felt myself being thrown around, tumbled.”

Still conscious, he found himself upside down, pinned inside his truck. 

Unknown to him, the tornado had also swept up the other truck. The Melita teens, who were inside the vehicle, were killed when they were thrown from the truck.

Blacksmith suffered a cracked vertebra, as well as multiple cuts and bruises, and spent four days in hospital.

James Blacksmith survived after a tornado flipped over his truck on Highway 83 south of Virden on Aug. 7. (James Blacksmith/Facebook)

It wasn’t the first time he survived a tornado. A few years ago, Blacksmith was at his home in Sioux Valley when a tornado struck, ripping off a part of his roof. 

Then on Thursday, for the third time in his life, he saw a tornado as he and his uncle were driving near the community of Alexander, about 50 kilometres to the east of Virden.

This time, Blacksmith says he was several kilometres away and just saw the funnel cloud on the horizon. 

Environment Canada confirmed that a tornado touched down for about 10 to 15 minutes in the rural municipality of Whitehead, just before 6 p.m.

There were no reports of any injuries or damage. 

Blacksmith says he’s taking his recovery day by day and has had trouble sleeping since his brush with the tornado near Virden.

Despite experiencing three tornadoes in only a few years, he has no plans to move away from his home.

“I’m going to be aware about storms I see nowadays,” he said.

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