MONETTE, Ark. (NewsNation Now) — Arkansas nursing home workers used their bodies to shield residents from falling debris as the roof caved in during a tornado, trapping 25 people inside and killing a 94-year-old over the weekend.
The employees of Monette Manor Nursing Home were moving the 67 elderly residents to safety when the roof collapsed, killing Golden Hembry, a 94-year-old Korean War veteran and coronavirus survivor. Hembry’s family had already rushed through the storm to check on him.
“He comes back and he said Golden didn’t make it,” said nephew Michael Hembry. “We said what and he told us again and we cried.”
The home was planning to hold its Christmas party Monday but instead is making plans to rebuild the ruins of the home.
“It’s been a part of the community for many, many many years and we can’t even think about it not being,” said Rick Sampson, co-owner of Monette Manor Nursing Home. “And when you go through the building and look at it, you’re just so thankful. You hate it that there was one, but you’re grateful that you only had one.”
Volunteers had been pouring in from all over Arkansas and neighboring states in the aftermath.
“You know, it’s an obligation for us to come out and help people when they’re in time of need, and there are towns in time of need right now,” said Matthew Benavides, a volunteer.
Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson declaring an immediate state of emergency in the hours after the tornado.
“Probably the most remarkable thing is that there’s not a greater loss of life,” Hutchinson said after touring the wreckage of the nursing home. “It is catastrophic. It’s a total destruction.”
52-year-old June Pennington died when the storm hit a Dollar General store in nearby Leachville. Pennington worked as the assistant manager of the store.