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Tornado wrecks River Plantation

Paul Fimpel Jr.Buy Photo
Paul Fimpel Jr.
Paul Fimpel Jr.Buy Photo
Paul Fimpel Jr.
Paul Fimpel Jr.Buy Photo
Paul Fimpel Jr.
Paul Fimpel Jr.Buy Photo
Paul Fimpel Jr.
Fellow members of Maumelle’s First United Methodist Church gather for a circle of prayers before helping clean Rob and Pam McGill’s land where their home once stood. In additional to picking up trash and debris, they searched for personal items worth keeping. Linda Gingerich
Fellow members of Maumelle’s First United Methodist Church gather for a circle of prayers before helping clean Rob and Pam McGill’s land where their home once stood. In additional to picking up trash and debris, they searched for personal items worth keeping. Linda Gingerich
A sign posted at River Plantation.Buy Photo
A sign posted at River Plantation.
A baby's shoe found at River Plantation
A baby's shoe found at River Plantation
Sherrie Ribaudo, left, with A-1 Granite and Jason Pollard, right, with Med James help load items they donated to disaster relief efforts. Truck after trucks loaded down with donated items left the Maumelle Holiday Inn Express that served as a collection center. Photo by Bill LawsonBuy Photo
Sherrie Ribaudo, left, with A-1 Granite and Jason Pollard, right, with Med James help load items they donated to disaster relief efforts. Truck after trucks loaded down with donated items left the Maumelle Holiday Inn Express that served as a collection center. Photo by Bill Lawson

Maumelle’s response to Sunday’s tornado was overwhelming.

Police Chief Sam Williams said 14 off-duty police officers came to work without being called. Mostly they set up operations just southwest of the city in the hard hit River Plantation neighborhood.

A dozen Maumelle firefighters went to Mayflower where they searched for victims going door to door, treated injured victims, dug people out of automobiles and structures collapsed on top of them, turned off broken gas lines and removed dangers like fallen power lines and other debris from critical roadways and other areas.

Hundreds of volunteers from Maumelle churches and other organizations also volunteered.

Members of Maumelle’s First United Methodist Church showed up in the River Plantation area to assist one of their own — Academics Plus Charter School executive director Rob McGill, whose home was demolished. The church members came to help pickup whatever they could find.

Memorabilia from his Guard activities, McGill served two tours, as well as thousands of photos of the many Maumelle students he’d help educate were victim to the strong winds.

Two other Maumelle related families lived in the same area — Don Sears and his son Todd, who just built the new building in front of Kroger leased to Maumelle Wine and Spirits. Both are retired Arkansas National Guard Colonels, as is Don’s wife Frankie.

Police Capt. Cory Pickard and Lt. Dustin Ivey established command and control operations in the hard hit River Plantation area, as they searched house by house for the dead and the injured survivors while securing the areas from outsiders, identified people who needed emergency assistance and directed the homeless toward shelters.

It was a tough, dangerous and difficult job but they acted heroically, Williams said. Power lines were down, gas lines ruptured and dangerous debris all around which Maumelle firefighters took care of when they arrived.

Williams said he helped establish a command and control operation in Mayflower while interim Fire Chief john Payne did the same there for rescue operations.

Payne said 12 firefighters served in the tornado hit area while 13 others covered Maumelle. The mixture of full-time firefighters and volunteers worked well, he said and all those involved deserved credit for handling such a tough job so well.

Early Monday morning, the Maumelle Fire Department sent a team of five career firefighters —

Capt. Scott Eaton, engineers Paul Grove and Tyler Castleberry and firefighters Destin Weaver and Todd Breeding — to areas in and around Vilonia in conjunction with Central Arkansas Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue Team, Captain Michael Cossey said.

The firefighters worked until approximately 3:30 a.m. After a short period of rest, the firefighters were redeployed to Vilonia after sunrise Monday morning and spent most of the day in the area.

The trained medical firefighters also handled numerous cuts, bruises and scraps as well as more serious injuries and recovering deceased victims.

Many folks were extricated from automobiles that were devastated utilizing the heavy equipment firefighters use in highway accidents, Payne said.

While emergency workers assisted so did many other Maumelle residents and city employees. Many Maumelle churches collected items and sent teams out to help in the hardest hit areas.

The items collected were also left at the Holiday Inn Express in Maumelle from where all Maumelle items transferred.

Maumelle’s Animal Shelter and Maumelle’s Friends of the Animals went out and collected dogs running loose and ended with more than 30 and later reunited almost half with their heart broken owners.

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