One killed as storm strikes Rivertrail

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Ark. – One employee of Rivertrail, Inc. was killed and 15 more narrowly escaped serious injury when the company’s boat manufacturing facility in Clinton, Ark., was hit by a tornado packing winds estimated at between 136-165 mph Tuesday night, The Associated Press reported in a story on the Web site yesterday.

The workers were on the job late to get a shipment of boats onto a tractor-trailer when the storm struck. The truck was still there the next day, part of a massive pile of twisted debris, which was all that remained of the plant, AP reported.

“Look at all that. Can you believe 15 people walked out of there?” plant worker William Aderholt told AP.

Aderholt was among the employees who found the body of Thomas Armstrong, a process that took about eight hours, according to AP.

“We just started digging,” Aderholt said. People had tried calling Armstrong’s cell phone, but no one could hear a ring. Then they started sending text messages, which got through.

“You could hear ‘beep, beep, beep,'” Aderholt said.

Working gently with help from the owner of an excavating business who brought some heavy equipment, they were able to reach Armstrong’s body. Aderholt said the coroner told him Armstrong was killed instantly when the building collapsed, AP reported.

“He was a good friend,” Aderholt said. “Out of everybody in there, he would have been the last one to not survive. He was a tough guy.”

The storm scattered boats from the facility throughout the surrounding area. Aderholt told AP one was found 15 miles away, while another, a 21-foot aluminum model, ended up in someone’s house, AP reported.

Rivertrail co-owner Clark Stancil, 77, told The Associated Press that he was unsure if the plant would reopen.

“I can’t answer that right now,” Stancil, who was waiting to hear from his insurance adjuster and see if any federal aid would be available, said. “I’m hoping that we can come up with something.”

Stancil said the 20-year-old factory produced between 550 and 600 boats per year.

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