Couple killed, 36 injured after tornado hits Virginia family campground

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CAPE CHARLES, Va. - A New Jersey couple was killed when a tornado ripped through Cherrystone Family Camping Resort in Cape Charles, Virginia on Thursday.

The voices in the video tell the story.

"Something crazy is going on outside," a woman shouts. "I'm scared."

Moments later, the same voice yells that a tree has fallen and another says, "It's on that guy's camper."

Overturned campers, downed trees

The footage posted on the website of CNN affiliate WAVY came from the Cherrystone Family Camping Resort on the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, where a tornado on Thursday toppled campers and sent trees crashing onto vehicles.

State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said a New Jersey couple died when a tree fell on their tent and 36 people were hospitalized -- including the couple's 13-year-old son. He was in critical condition.

She identified the fatalities as Lord Balatbat and Lolabeth Ortega, both 38, of Jersey City.

According to Geller, more than 1,300 people were staying at the campground and police have accounted for all of them, plus 40 Cherrystone staff members.

Photos from the scene in Northampton County showed overturned campers, with a downed tree crushing one vehicle.

The area was under a tornado warning, and Danielle Rivera -- who shot the video footage -- told WAVY of giant hail and crushing winds that tore off the awning of her family's camper.

"I was terrified"

"I was terrified," the 17-year-old Rivera said. "I was so scared."

She and her mother decided to stay in the camper until the hail and wind relented enough for them to make a dash to their car.

"I thought a tree was going to fall on us," she said.

Survivors were bused to a local high school set up as a temporary shelter, and workers made sure the devastated campground was safe before allowing anyone to return, Geller said.

The injured were taken to four different medical centers, with most going to Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital, she said.

Tornado warning

According to the National Weather Service, a cluster of "supercells" ahead of a cold front formed a storm over Chesapeake Bay just after 8 a.m. ET.

The storm intensified as it moved on ashore about 30 minutes later. The area was under a tornado warning issued at 8:20 a.m., and Geller said the weather service confirmed that an F1 tornado hit the campground.

An F1 tornado has wind speeds of 73-112 mph.

Cherrystone opened in 1964 occupies 300 acres with 725 sites including cabins, cottages, and deluxe campers, its website says. Geller told reporters that the tornado appeared to come off the water and hit the campground. It also knocked over a tractor-trailer on a nearby road, injuring the driver, she said.

All the other damage and injuries occurred at the campground, Geller said, adding that most of those sent to hospitals had been treated and released.

Rivera told WAVYthat she and her family had been going there for 10 years, but "never have I ever witnessed anything this bad."

Cherrystone is located just 11 miles north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.

The campground that opened in 1964 occupies 300 acres with 725 sites including cabins, cottages, and deluxe campers, its website says.


  • Jay

    Appears to be a loblolly pine. The pictures seem to show a healthy tree with twisted splintering similar to that caused by a twister….especially low on the tree.
    Few places to run or hide in that area.

  • buzzbye

    WAVY t v has a video of the water spout over the bay near Cape Charles and pictures of the Campground that are just devastating. I have spent many weeks of my life vacationing at Cherrystone. Have seen the most spectacular sunsets, the most awesome fishing in the world from those fishing piers. I have also experienced Mother natures fury when the storms come racing across the Bay. MY prayers are with the Families of The 3 dead and dozens injured. The owners of the Campground are a great bunch of people who have been devastated by mother nature year after year lately. I do know VA beach did send up The mass casualty incident trailer and six ambulances to help out . Many of the victims where transported to trauma centers with back and thoracic , head injuries. This is what I have been able to gather on line and WAVT T V. A lot of kids bacam separated from there parents during this tornadoe and theres a really good pic of it that WAVY has of it

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