DUETTE -- Four children who were injured in a tornado Sunday that took their grandparents' lives are all improving and even had the opportunity to visit with one another in the hospital.
Since the tornado ripped through Duette early Sunday morning, the community has rallied around the family raising more than $18,000 to help with medical and funeral expenses, as well as helping to relocate the family who lost their home in the tornado. A GoFundMe page, which was set up Sunday afternoon, had already raised $18,255 as of Monday night. The page had gathered donations from 340 people Monday night. Their goal is to raise $30,000 to help offset expenses. To donate to the fund titled Duette Tornado Victim's Family, visit gofundme.com/tdjpcxek.
The tornado that hit at 3:20 a.m. Sunday took the lives of Stephen and Kelli Wilson, picking up their doublewide mobile home at 40305 Albritton Road and dropping it 100 yards from its foundation. The Wilsons' son, Stephen, his three children and a cousin all survived. As of Monday, all four children and the father were in stable condition.
Stephen's father was found dead in the debris after the storm, the tornado caused Stephen's mother to have a heart attack, and she later died.
Brendan Betancourt, a family friend, set up the GoFundMe page to "help alle
viate some of the medical expenses, burial costs and incidental expenses that have come up during this trying time to this great family," according to the page.
When Betancourt woke up Sunday to find out that one of his friend's family was affected, he wanted to help.
"Brothers and sisters, we take care of each other," he said. "It is a horrible story."
Betancourt said the family is "just overwhelmed with all of the support they are receiving."
"It is overwhelming and nice to see us come together as a community," he said. "They have a lot of pieces to pick up and financially he is not able to solve all them. It's the best we can do for them to be together as a family."
A picture posted on the GoFundMe page a little after 2 p.m. Monday shows the four children in a hospital room, smiling. The update reads: these 4 are alive, stable and well today thanks to my brother Stephen Wilson!"
The children's injuries ranged from internal injuries such a liver laceration and collapsed lung to head lacerations and multiple abrasions, according to the GoFundMe page.
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson