Bears, Tears and Tornados!

One of the lucky ones as this home was deemed safe for occupancy. Less than a 1/4 mile from his home two people were killed by the tornadoes in separate incidents.

What a week, starting off on Sunday covering a fatal motorcycle accident. It was one of those smaller bikes or should I just say not a Harley. It was Sunday morning in Saugus, MA, around 6:30am when I took a run to a call that sounded serious.

When I got there Saugus Police had the area condoned off and there was what was left of the bike. Half at one point of the area and the other half at the other side.  In the middle was the driver’s seat and a helmet with char marks from the resulting fire after the bike went under a pickup truck and bursting into flames, the 20 year old driver did not survive.

What was left of the burning bike where a 20 year old was killed in Saugus.

The week before I was driving north on Route One in Saugus when two of those bikes went flying by me. The first one doing near 100 miles an hour almost tipping over as he made the curves. A few minutes later I saw the bikes pulling into a restaurant further up the road and I pulled in after them.

I rolled down my window and identified myself as a news person and asking them in no uncertain terms what they were doing driving like that explaining in my way of explaining how many dead people I had seen as a result of craziness like they displayed. One of the riders apologized and I said not to me pal but to your family after you are gone. When I asked the other if he wanted to die he shrugged his shoulders and walked away. I said don’t believe what Osama said you are not coming back.

On Monday of last week it got worse a 12 year old had drowned in the waters off of Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. She went missing around 8: pm Sunday night after her and her 20 year old brother had gone for a swim.

Reporter Jack Harper and I caught up with the family Monday morning and it was a home of a tragedy we walked into. The family could not have been nicer inviting us in to copy photos of the young girl which were hanging on the wall then talking to us about what happened.

Hampton Beach after the 12 year old's body was found.

The 20 year brother was distraught as he explained how he and his family decided at 5: pm there wasn’t much traffic and they should go to Hampton Beach for some fun. Around 8pm the two of them decided to go for a swim. They did not realize how cold the water was or how stiff the current was flowing. In the water a couple of minutes and suddenly his younger sister was yelling for help and he was trying to reach her. He was blaming himself for not being able to reach her and still hearing her shouts for help. He told us while trying and not succeeding in keeping himself composed how he became exhausted almost drowning himself till a passerby pulled him to safety. It was awful to visualize and I am sure he will be keeping those awful memories with him the rest of his life. A few hours later her body was discovered about where she was last seen. She had come in with the currents that took her away.

Wednesday started off great chasing weather and quarter size hail. I did not get to catch up with the ice on my first run around nine in the morning but the day continued with a lightning strike house fire in Andover then the call for a sighting of a bear that had been spotted the day before in Weston, MA.

I went from Andover to Wayland hoping I would be there for the capture of the animal who was shopping for food at the wrong restaurant, neighborhood streets. There was several sightings that morning and I was chasing police who were chasing the bear, lot of excitement and for me lots of fun as the only bears I had ever viewed were in captivity.

Jack Harper was once again going to be my partner and as the cops were searching the woods behind the house where the last sighting took place a call came in from neighboring Framingham they had the bear in sight about a mile from where I was.

I sped down route 126 not knowing for sure where I was going but knowing it was supposed to be just over the town line. I saw the entering Framingham sign and knew I was close but after driving about a mile I decided I must have missed the street and yes I did on the first pass.

I spotted a police cruiser this time and got up to a fence where cops and civilians were yelling there it is there it is and a couple of them convinced there were two bears. I jumped out of the car debating whether to grab my tripod and decided I didn’t want to take the extra few seconds it would take and besides that carrying both a tripod and camera is hard on my back.

There I was looking through my black and white viewfinder with these people yelling there it is and no way I could spot it though the camera lens, a black bear, dark trees and leaves and no separation of colors.

I figured I should get my tripod for the long wait for the bear to come out from the brush. While setting up the tripod and mounting the camera the group starting yelling again and I glanced to the left and there it was about 3 seconds of view and before I could shoot it (with the camera) it was gone. At least I got to see a bear in the woods.

We were waiting to do a live shot when the calls starting coming in about a possible tornado in Springfield. The weather conditions where we were starting deteriorating and there was no way we could do a live shot, lightening and wind were putting an end to that.

I was able to pull up one of the radio applications on my IPhone and listen to fire calls in western part of the State. There was confirmation of a touch down of at least one tornado in Springfield which would later grow to three separate tornados all being a category threes with gusts as high as 165 MPH.

Then the real fun began and believe me it wasn’t fun. Jack and I started heading West on the Pike for Springfield about an hour away. It got very scary and Jack had been telling me about this great show on tornados he had watched the night before. At one point he said he wished he had not watched it as he now knew too much about them.

About 20 minutes down the pike the sky got darker the rain heavy and the quarter size hail I missed in the morning was pounding down on our vehicle banging away like someone was throwing rocks at us. We pulled over like many other vehicles and Jack did the first of three great phoners for the news reports. What a description he gave as he put the viewer in our car watching what we were seeing.

Continue west we heard reports of a tornado travelling east parallel to the Pike heading towards us as we headed west towards it. We were not sure what to do and were trying to figure out where we take shelter if we see one. I think we both would have liked to see it as long as we could be safe. The only place I could see and it was kind of a joke was under a guardrail which I could never fit under and would probably not help us anyway.

I would hear calls for buildings collapsing in Munson which ended up being one of the harder hit towns but Springfield was our destination as we knew it was a sure thing. After talking our way into one of the ravaged areas in the 200 block of Maple Street we could see how severe the damage was. Many trees uprooted, houses heavily damaged and people clinging to each other happy to have survived the onslaught. It was tough to look at knowing many of these people had not much to begin with and they lost whatever was left.

Union Street, West Springfield where a mother lost her life saving her daughter.

That was day one of the storm and day two was worse as reporter Kelly Tuthill and I went to West Springfield where two of the three people killed as a result of the storm lived. The first one we went to was a house that was no more where a 39 year old mother had grabbed her daughter; put her in the bath tub with her and protected her from the destruction by lying on top of her. The 15 year old survived with non life threatening injuries while the mother died doing what mothers do, trying to keep their children safe.

From there we traveled a few miles from that house to the home of a 23 year old man whose family had come from Russia and his parents and eight siblings lived. He had been killed driving down Main Street in West Springfield after a tree fell on his vehicle crushing him.

We talked to his sister who was a lovely young woman explaining to us what a wonderful brother he was and then talking about watching TVearlier and hearing someone had died after a tree had fallen. She told us how badly she felt for the victim and his family. When she found out it was her brother her whole world was crushed.

The week finally ended for me in Munson where I saw more houses destroyed, people trying to salvage what they could which wasn’t much and hearing stories of survival.

Total for week was five dead, scores of houses destroyed and sadness at every view.



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