We began our day like any other chase day, Checking models to find the perfect target, this was a tough one because none of the models were really agreeing on Timing/Location/ and type of storms that would fire, we made the decision to target Fleming, SK as that would place us in the middle of all the probable Targets, When we arrived at Fleming, we soon realized this would be a hard place to sit and wait, as we had little to no Cell Service to keep an eye radar and observations so we decided to move slightly east to Kirkella, MB. This kept us still within our target zone, and gave us much better cell service.
After about 2 hours sitting in Kirkella, A few towers started going up to our North, We watched as they formed Pileus Caps, and then began to erupt into a supercell, We decided to head north and check this storm out, as we got closer we could see a large wall cloud forming around Foxwarren, but we could also see on radar that a new cell was forming Southwest of Fleming that was within our target zone. We stuck with the Foxwarren cell for a few more minutes as we watched it move into an unfavourable environment and dissipate, So we made the decision to head back south and chase the new cell that was going up in our target area.
As we drove south to get in front of the storm, it quickly grew and began dropping Golf ball-sized hail along Hwy #1 between Elkhorn and Virden, We were still north of the cell at this time and had to get SE of it as fast as possible, we made the decision to Punch through the core as that was the quickest route to get to a safer, better position.
As we entered the Core we began getting hit with roughly Ping pong ball sized hail, thankfully we were on the most eastern edge of the core so we were able to miss the larger hail, We then hit Hwy #1 and were able to get east of the storm out of the core and start getting into a better position.
We hit Highway 83 and turned south, we noticed our fuel level was getting pretty low, so we decided to stop at a gas station just southwest of Virden on the corner of Hwy 83 and Hwy 257.
While filling our tank, I looked to the west and noticed two things were happening, #1 there was a wall cloud forming on the storm we just drove through, #2 there was a new cell forming to the South and merging into this storm, the new cell was already sucking a-lot of skud and beginning to look a-lot stronger than the storm it was merging with.
We finished filling our tank and decided to head south to get in position on this new cell, We only made it 4 miles before noticing a large RFD cut and a large area of rotation forming, we quickly pulled over and started watching this rotation, and it was only a matter of minutes before we started seeing Dirt getting swirled around and lifted off the ground, long before the funnel even started forming. At this point, we knew we had a tornado occurring, and that it was likely going to be a major one.
We continued to watch this tornado form for a few minutes before deciding we needed to get further south, as we were almost directly in its path. we drove another 2 miles south while the funnel continued to form, and the tornado grew stronger and stronger.
We pulled over on the side of Hwy 83, approximately 2.5 miles south of our first stop, when we got out of the vehicle we could see a large funnel stretching 3/4 of the way down to the ground, then Clear air, with a large area of dust and trees flying around on the ground.
We noticed the tornado was taking aim at the only farmyard in sight, unfortunately there was nothing we could do but stand there and watch as the funnel fully condensed down to the ground and reached maximum intensity just as it approached the farm yard.
We quickly began seeing giant pieces of debris flying through the air, Chunks of grain silos, trees, etc. We prayed that if the people were home, that they were safe in their basement.
The tornado continued through their yard site, and crossed the highway in front of us, into a field across the road, While the tornado was in the field we could still see giant pieces of debris being tossed around like feathers in the wind.
We continued to stand there watching this tornado for a few minutes as it started to weaken and rope out just as fast as it began.
Like any storm chaser should when they see something get it, We quickly ended our chase and turned our attention towards the farmyard that got hit.
Upon arrival, the first thing we saw was a Red Jeep Grand Cherokee laying on its roof in the ditch, its driver trapped inside, fellow storm chasers Aaron Jayjack and Misheyla Iwasiuk were already on scene and on the phone with 911 calling for help, I asked Aaron if anybody checked the house, and thankfully he said yes, Nobody home and the house was mostly spared, with the damage occurring mostly to outbuildings, grain silos, and vehicles in the yard.
I then turned my attention to the field across the road, Where i saw what looked like a white pickup truck, destroyed sitting in the field, 2 passerby’s were standing outside the truck looking for occupants.
Nobody was found inside the vehicle, so we were hoping that it was just a parked vehicle from the farm yard, we continued to search around the site for anyone injured while we waiting for Emergency services to arrive on the scene, Upon arrival the police began walking out towards the white truck, i noticed them stop and start waving their arms to get attention.
At this moment, I knew that white truck was not unoccupied, I quickly yelled for the firefighters to get their attention for the police officers and they rushed out to begin attending to somebody on the ground, that was hidden within the crops.
This was the moment we decided to leave the scene, as there was not much more we could do once Emergency services were there, it was best for us to stay out of their way and let them do their jobs. On the drive home was when we heard the news that 2 people had been killed, our hearts quickly sank as we knew it had to have been the occupants of that white truck.
The next day it was announced that 2 18-year-olds (1 male, 1 Female) were ejected from their vehicle as the tornado tossed it into the field, It was later announced that these victims were Carter Tilbury and Shayna Barnesky of Melita, MB.
Our deepest condolences go out to the friends and family of Carter and Shayna in this tragic time.