Henryville home swallowed by tornado with family inside

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A Henryville family shared an amazing story of survival with WAVE 3. All five family members were inside a home as it was lifted straight up into the sky.

It was the same direction the Gilles family had been sending prayers just moments earlier. Those prayers are what they credit for giving them a landing they miraculously survived.

"We just had to have angels helping us to land a little softly," said Darrell Gilles.

Both Gilles and his wife of 13 years, Trish, were sharing a hospital room for the first time, awaiting surgeries at University of Louisville Hospital.  

"Words can't express how thankful I am," said Trish, the physical pain obvious on her face, and the cracking of her speech an unmistakable sign of understandable emotion.

A couple of blocks away, two of their three children were also sharing a hospital room. 8-year-old Mia and 11-year-old Caleb were recovering at Kosair Children's Hospital with multiple injuries. The Gilles' middle child, Collin, suffered only a twisted ankle.  

The fact that any one of them was able to share their story is nothing short of amazing.

It was early on Friday when Darrell and Trish decided to pick up the kids from school. They thought this storm sounded serious, that the warnings seemed even more concerning than warnings they'd heard before.  

But by the time they arrived home and started preparing their safe place -- a closet Trish padded with pillows -- Darrell saw the dark cloud forming, twisting, then dropping from the sky.  

"I could see trees just snapping, and going up in it, probably 2,000 feet away," said Darrell.

He rushed back inside, got into the closet with his wife and 3 kids, and together they held hands and prayed. "I said, Oh God, help us," said Darrell.

Trish, who'd been trying to keep the children calm, had already warned them of what they may be facing, "and I just told them, you're going to hear loud noises. It might be you can't feel Mommy's hand anymore, but it's going to be over real soon, and God's going to protect you. Just keep praying."

But then, seeing the horror on Darrell's face, Trish's own prayers turned to her children. "My prayer that I kept saying," said Trish, "was, 'God, no matter what, save my babies, save my babies.'"

And in an instant, their home lifted, "it started spinning," Trish remembered. Darrell added, "like a roller coaster ride, just felt it flip over, then boom!"  

Then, in a field of rubble with no home in sight, Trish so broken she couldn't move, and Darrell barely able to look around and see the children, all of them face down. It would seem like an eternity until they started making noises, then crying. Not sure how injured they may be, still, "it was the best noise in the world," said Trish.

With 19 broken bones and what appeared to be another tornado moving in, Darrell started lifting and pulling his family to safety. The marks from hail the size of baseballs still covered his arms as he covered his children with whatever drywall he could find.

Thankfully, passersby, putting their own lives at risk, came to their aid.

"It's pretty amazing that people would step up like that," said Darrell.

And also amazing, that there was someone in that rubble that those strangers could help.

"Couple of surgeries and we'll all be fine," said Darrell. "We have each other, that's all I could ask for."  

"There was five little prayers in that closet, all different prayers. But I think all five of them worked. Wasn't one better than the other, all five of them, God heard them," said Trish.

The Gilles family suffered numerous injuries. Darrell has 14 broken ribs, a broken sternum and clavicle and two fractures in his jaw. He also has a punctured lung. Trish has a collapsed lung and fractured pelvis, Mia has a lacerated liver and Caleb has two broken vertebrae.  

The family has little insurance to cover medical expenses, and no financial help for the weeks Darrell will be without work. If you'd like to help the Gilles family, two funds are set up in their name.

Darrell Gilles Family
Catastrophic Relief Fund
PNC Bank

or mail checks to:
Sojourn Church
930 Mary Street
Louisville, KY. 40204
"Darrell Gilles Relief Fund"

Copyright 2012 WAVE News. All rights reserved.