NEWTON COUNTY, Mo. — “Thirteen years ago today,” Joey Spiva begins telling us. “God spared me,” and his two-year-old daughter, Hope. They survived the May 10, 2008 tornado that crossed Newton County at Highway 43 near Iris Road.
Late that afternoon Joey loaded Hope in his full size pickup. “I was driving to Seneca to see my parents and then headed to Miami, Oklahoma, to meet up with Jeni and Chloe [wife and other daughter] because my father-in-law was in the hospital.”
It started storming so they pulled over. Hope was in her car seat in the back of the pickup. Joey says he really doesn’t remember much after the storm hit them. “I parked in the entrance of Lants Feed Store and ended up in the field. I’m not sure how far the truck flew.”
Redings Mill Fire District mark the date and timeline for “Saturday May 10th, 2008: The tornado touched down 2.5 miles southwest of Chetopa, KS near the Oklahoma/Kansas state line.“
By the time it got to Joey and Hope at Lants Feed on Highway 43 that was about 30 minutes later. The tornado moved into southwest Missouri. “At approximately 5:57 p.m. it was located just north of Iris Road and Stateline Road in Newton County. Several homes and businesses were destroyed as well as cars carried off the roadway at the intersection of Highway 43 and Iris Road.” The Spiva’s truck was one of those vehicles carried away.
“I remember when I first woke up, when I regained consciousness, I was pretty excited to still be here, to still be alive. I remember my first thought was, where is my daughter, Hope?” He says he was kind of in shock and looking around saw she was still her car seat, buckled in but unconscious.
He found his phone in his pocket. Called 911 for help. When he hung up Hope was awake and looking around and in shock.
“I thought how how am I gonna get us out of here. I was in the back seat with her because I had laid over the top of her to protect her. So she was strapped in, my leg was caught underneath the truck seat and the roof was kind of caved in on us, there wasn’t a lot of room.”
Still trying to decide a plan Joey started yelling for help causing Hope to get upset. He says he looked down next to her and despite the 190 mph winds there was her diaper bag. And inside he found the pacifier, the binky.
“I took [the binky] and licked off all the glass and debris and gave it to her and she calmed down.”
Two men rescued Joey and Hope from the truck and they were transported to a hospital. They made a full recovery.
Redings Mill Fire District remember one of the fatalities along 43 Highway that day was volunteer firefighter Tyler Casey. “Tyler was storm spotting on behalf of the Seneca Area Fire Protection District. He was aware of the approaching tornado and was warning citizens. Tyler was caught in the path of the tornado and suffered life threating injuries. He was transported to a local hospital and succumbed to his injuries on May 12th, 2008.”
Altogether, the tornado was on the ground for 98 minutes, with a path length of 77 miles, affected a total of four counties over a two-state area, claiming 21 lives and caused $61 million in damage.
We thank Hal Robertson who was a contributor in part to this article. Images of Spiva pickup, Joey Spiva.