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People in small Manitoba town mourning after well-liked teens killed by tornado

Last Updated Aug 10, 2020 at 12:54 pm EDT

A funnel cloud is seen in the distance of a farmer's field near Virden, Man., in a Friday, Aug. 7, 2020, handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Wyatt Hiebert, *MANDATORY CREDIT*

MELITA, Man. — The mayor of a small southwestern Manitoba town says everyone in the community is devastated after a tornado killed two well-liked teens.

Bill Holden says residents in Melita are feeling profound grief since Shayna Barnesky and Carter Tilbury, both 18, died Friday.

He says they were well-known and from large, private families in the community of just over 1,000 residents.

The pair were in a vehicle that was thrown by the tornado when it touched down near Virden, Man., about 68 kilometres north of the town.

Carolyn Cory, the local school division’s superintendent, says Barnesky had just finished high school and Tilbury had graduated the year before.

Crisis support is being provided to students and staff.

“We mourn this unimaginable loss and heartbreak for so many,” Cory said in an email. “This tragedy resonates across all of our division’s schools.”

A storm warning was issued for the area around 6:30 p.m. Friday, followed by a severe thunderstorm warning an hour later. At 7:49 p.m., a tornado warning was sent.

Photos and video show the giant twister touch down a few minutes later on Highway 83 south of Virden. Preliminary findings from an Environment and Climate Change Canada investigation indicate wind speeds reached 190 kilometres per hour.

Emergency responders later found extensive damage on a farm, with silos strewn throughout a field. Two vehicles had also been thrown into a nearby field.

A 54-year-old man from Sioux Valley Dakota First Nation was found in one of the vehicles and was taken to hospital with serious but non-life threatening injuries.

The second vehicle was located over a kilometre away. Police believed the teens were ejected from the vehicle. They were pronounced dead at the scene.

Holden said the deaths have affected everybody because the kids were liked throughout the area.

“It’s hard on the kids they went to school with. It’s hard on the families. It’s hard on the people they worked with. It’s just, you know, it’s just all around hard on everybody.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 10, 2020.

The Canadian Press