UPDATE: Barron Co. tornado victim identified - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

UPDATE: Barron Co. tornado victim identified

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(Dan Reiland/The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram via AP). Firefighters work the site of the damage after a tornado ripped through Prairie Lake Estates trailer home park, just north of Chetek, Wis., Tuesday, May 16, 2017. (Dan Reiland/The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram via AP). Firefighters work the site of the damage after a tornado ripped through Prairie Lake Estates trailer home park, just north of Chetek, Wis., Tuesday, May 16, 2017.
(Dan Reiland/The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram via AP). Part of a building sits on a vehicle after a tornado ripped through Prairie Lake Estates trailer home park, just north of Chetek, Wis., Tuesday, May 16, 2017. (Dan Reiland/The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram via AP). Part of a building sits on a vehicle after a tornado ripped through Prairie Lake Estates trailer home park, just north of Chetek, Wis., Tuesday, May 16, 2017.
(Dan Reiland/The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram via AP). A sofa sits on damaged trees after a tornado ripped through Prairie Lake Estates trailer home park, just north of Chetek, Wis., Tuesday, May 16, 2017. (Dan Reiland/The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram via AP). A sofa sits on damaged trees after a tornado ripped through Prairie Lake Estates trailer home park, just north of Chetek, Wis., Tuesday, May 16, 2017.
BARRON, Wis. (WQOW) - -

Barron County (WQOW) - Authorities have released the name of the person who died in Tuesday's tornado.

The Barron County sheriff confirmed Wednesday morning the person who died was 46-year-old Eric Gavin. The tornado struck the Prairie Lake Estates mobile home park Tuesday night, destroying 50 to 60 trailers. Another 25 people were injured.  17 people were taken to local hospitals with injuries, others were treated at the scene.

Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said all of the residents of that park have now been accounted for. 

A team from the National Weather Service is expected to arrive in Chetek Wednesday morning to assess the damage and make a final determination on the severity of the tornado.


Barron (WQOW) - The worst of the damage is centered around the Prairie Lake Estates trailer park on County SS, located between Chetek and Cameron in Barron County.

The Barron County Sheriff told our sister station News 18 one person died and at least 25 are injured. According to the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs, about 40 trailer homes were destroyed by the tornado. A nearby turkey farm was also destroyed.

Officials are still working Tuesday night, going home to home searching for anyone who might be missing or trapped.

News 18 spoke with the mayor of Chetek, Jeff Martin, who told News 18 “the people who live in that trailer park – their whole world got turned upside down”.

Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald told News 18 Tuesday night that at one point, every officer with the Barron County Sheriff's Department was in the area, helping and looking for people who may be injured. The size of that search has been scaled back, but it still continues at this hour because the sheriff said there are people who live in Prairie Lake Estates trailer court who are unaccounted for.

Emergency crews have marked every trailer that has been searched, and now, they're going back again stopping, listening and then physically lifting the debris and searching for anyone who might be trapped.

Sheriff Fitzgerald said the lone fatality was in the Prairie Lake Estates trailer park. And he said, to his knowledge, no injures have been reported outside of the trailer park area.

“We pulled several walls off of people. We've carried babies out. We've carried elderly. We've been contacted by several people that want to help. But at this time, we're just searching the area with the search teams and making sure there's no one injured, and then we'll assess the damage and work with the NWS and all that other stuff that goes beyond saving and rescuing people,” Sheriff Fitzgerald said.

He said every single trailer here is damaged to some degree, and as of Tuesday night, no one is being allowed back in to area. The power and gas have been shut off as a precaution.

Devin Feuerhelm told KMSP-TV that his sister, Lenna Samuelson, lives in the Wisconsin trailer park with her two daughters, Ashley and Brenna. He said his sister also had a 2-month-old grandson, Nolan, in the home when the storm hit, and they had nowhere to go but the bathtub.

Amazingly, the infant grandson escaped with just a couple of scratches, he said. Samuelson's daughters suffered minor injuries, and the mother suffered a gash on her head, but he said all are expected to be fine.

While their home was flattened, the SUV next to it was untouched.

A mobile home is a particularly dangerous place to be during a tornado, according to the National Weather Service. The high winds during a tornado can rip a mobile home, which frequently would not have a foundation, from its moorings. In 2011, when devastating tornadoes struck in Joplin, Missouri, and in Alabama and Mississippi, 111 of the 551 people killed nationwide in tornadoes, or 20 percent, were in mobile homes, according to the Storm Prediction Center website.

More than two dozen tornado sightings were reported to the National Weather Service Tuesday night across the five states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Wisconsin. The storm also brought numerous reports of large hail and strong winds.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs, the National Weather Service will send Damage Survey Teams to the area on Wednesday morning to assess the locations, strengths and numbers of tornadoes. Parts of northwestern Wisconsin are expected to receive heavy rain Wednesday. Flood Warnings and Flood Watches have been issued for parts of the area.

The Associated Press also contributed to this story.


Several people are injured in the Barron County area, including one person who has died, according to Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald

News 18 spoke with Sheriff Fitzgerald on Tuesday night. He confirmed there is one fatality and at least 25 people who are injured. Sheriff Fitzgerald said the severe damage is between Chetek and Cameron on Highway SS.

He said most of the damage is concentrated at a trailer park and turkey barns. Sheriff Fitzgerald said the lone fatality was at the trailer park. 

"I know there were walls on top of people," Fitzgerald told CNN affiliate WCCO and other media outlets. "I would describe it as total destruction. There's a whole row where there should be trailers that there's nothing but debris."

At least one baby was injured, he said.

Fitzgerald said local and state officials are calling it a tornado, but that hasn't been confirmed by the National Weather Service, he said.

Sheriff Fitzgerald said emergency crews are doing a second search of the buildings right now.

KARE-TV and KSTP-TV in the Twin Cities report the tornado hit the Prairie Lakes Estates trailer park north of Chetek.

Chetek Mayor Jeff Martin tells KSTP that numerous emergency vehicles have gone to the trailer park. He says he had no immediate confirmation of any injuries. He estimates the park had around 50 homes.

Wisconsin Emergency Management reported that 40 of those 50 homes were destroyed.

Tod Pritchard, a state Emergency Management spokesman, said there also was a report of a tornado in Rusk County. Five homes were damaged, but there are no immediate reports of injuries.

This is a developing situation. We'll update this story as more information becomes available

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