By Crystal Chung @crystalkchung
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Videographer / director: Jason Weingart
Producer: Crystal Chung, Ruby Coote
Editor: Marcus Cooper
Jason Weingart, his wife Savannah and their friend Matt were chasing a dramatic tornado across Van Zandt County in Eastern Texas at the end of April when he came across an exotic animal farm devastated by the tornado.
Jason said: “We had been documenting these storms for about an hour when they started producing tornados. We saw the first tornado just north of the town.
“We continued following the rotation and it dropped several more tornadoes and the second one was an EF4 which did quite a bit of damage just south of Canton.”
“This tornado was a really intense chase, so it was difficult terrain with a lot of trees. It was a populated area so we knew the tornado was doing damage.”
Once the storm had calmed down, Jason was able to see just how much damage it had done to the area.
He said: “I had just started to slow down our vehicle and looked out our window and I saw devastation everywhere.”
Jason then saw a woman crawling out of the rubble shouting for help and in complete shock.
Sally Knox’s house in Canton was severely damaged by the tornado, but her main concern was with her collection of more than 50 animals - including camels, zebras and monkeys.
Weingart said: “The animals were running all around the property. Some had sustained injuries such as cuts. Others were missing altogether.
“Sally took me back to the house and started showing me exactly what had happened and it turns out she owns a farm with all these exotic animals like camels, zebras, monkeys and parrots.
As Jason and Sally were scanning the damage, they noticed one of the young horses trapped underneath the debris.
Jason said: “I’m assuming that the winds had just picked that little colt up and thrown him across the yard and wedged him with the debris on top of him.”
Thinking quickly, Jason grabbed the horse by its hind legs in an attempt to pull it out from under the rubble.
He said: “I started pulling as hard as I could and, after a couple of seconds, I pulled it out but it still wasn’t getting up and I was afraid that it might be hurt.
For Jason, this particular tornado was his first experience of coming across damage so extensive.
He said: “It’s not what I like to see when I’m out storm chasing but as a storm chaser you have to be prepared that you’re going to come across that.”
Jason, Savannah and Matt continued to help Sally on her farm for several hours, freeing as many animals as they could and the little horse showed no signs of pain once he was free and the shock of the event began to subside.
Jason said: “I'm thankful we found him when we did and he didn't have to spend another moment wedged into the mud.”