September 28, 2020

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Tornado claims lives of two teens

People survey the damage at Giovanni Colangelo's farm south of Virden on Saturday after a powerful tornado tore through the farm Friday evening. (Tim Smith/The Brandon Sun)

People survey the damage at Giovanni Colangelo's farm south of Virden on Saturday after a powerful tornado tore through the farm Friday evening. (Tim Smith/The Brandon Sun)

Two Melita teens have died after a tornado touched down in southwestern Manitoba Friday night. 

RCMP confirmed an 18-year-old man and an 18-year-old woman were in a vehicle that was swept up in the tornado and thrown into a field. Emergency responders found the teens dead. They are believed to have been ejected from the vehicle when the tornado touched down near 83 and Road 50N in the RM of Pipestone after 8:10 p.m. Friday.

A tornado is seen touching down near Canupawakpa Dakota First Nation on Friday evening. (Photo submitted by Sharmaine Brown)

A tornado is seen touching down near Canupawakpa Dakota First Nation on Friday evening. (Photo submitted by Sharmaine Brown)

Another man, a 54-year-old from Sioux Valley Dakota First Nation, suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries when his vehicle was also picked up by the tornado. He was taken to hospital after his vehicle was found about a kilometre away from where the man and woman were pronounced dead.

Virden RCMP are still investigating.

The tornado carved a path of destruction, according to those who witnessed it.

Storm chaser Misheyla Iwasiuk tweeted at 8:33 p.m. that the tornado struck a farm and threw several vehicles into it. She also wrote that power lines had been downed, making it difficult for emergency personnel to respond to the situation. Another chaser, Sean Schofer, posted a picture of an overturned car and said rescue vehicles were arriving on scene.  

Environment Canada sent out a tornado warning to the RM of Pipestone and the RM of Sifton at 8:10 p.m.

Kurtis Fafard, who saw the tornado form at approximately 8 p.m. from Scarth, 16 kilometres south of Virden, described what he saw in a Facebook message to the Sun.

"It started as slight rotation in the clouds and just kept building," he wrote. "It began to have a debris cloud and a funnel but no visible touchdown. A few minutes later it made touchdown and began to increase in size and power. It was at this time it struck the farmyard. There are steel fertilizer bins half a mile away crumpled up like tinfoil. Power poles torn out of the ground. Police, fire and EMS were all on scene before I got there."

Debris is scattered through the ditch and field west of Highway 83 near Scarth, Man. on Saturday. after a powerful tornado tore through the area Friday evening. (Tim Smith/The Brandon Sun)

Debris is scattered through the ditch and field west of Highway 83 near Scarth, Man. on Saturday. after a powerful tornado tore through the area Friday evening. (Tim Smith/The Brandon Sun)

Kyle Campion, a farmer in the Pipestone area, said he was baling hay in his field when he received tornado warnings on both his phone and radio at almost the same time.

"I looked up and I could see the clouds moving," he said. "I stopped, got in the truck and left the field. We could see it come all the way down and we got a better view ... we could see the path it was taking, throwing stuff around even from that distance."

While Campion didn’t see it hit any buildings, he saw debris being carried around by the strong winds. Some of his neighbours lost power, but his farm did not. He said he would be going out in the morning to see if he could provide any help to those affected.

At 8:49 p.m., the STARS Air Ambulance Twitter account wrote that a unit had been dispatched to the Virden area for a scene call emergency. The nature of this call remains unclear and STARS representatives were unavailable for comment by Friday night’s print deadline.

The RCMP and Wallace District Fire Department were also not available for comment Friday.

As of 10 p.m., Manitoba Hydro said there were more than 100 customers without power in the Virden area. Power was expected to be restored early Saturday morning.

While the tornado watch for the area was lifted later in the evening, Environment Canada still had severe thunderstorm watches and warnings in place for much of Westman as of approximately 11 p.m. Friday.

» cslark@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @ColinSlark

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History

Updated on Saturday, August 8, 2020 at 12:41 PM CDT: This story has been updated to include confirmation of two fatalities.

1:02 PM: Adds photo

1:38 PM: Adds photos

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