Devastation hits Heaton close

Published 12:34 pm Saturday, April 30, 2011

David Heaton, a native of Pleasant Grove and the brother of ECHS head football coach Mark Heaton, lost his home to the tornado that caused destruction in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and other areas on Wednesday.|Submitted Photo

Wednesday afternoon, the Escambia County Blue Devils football team opened up spring training and head coach Mark Heaton’s focus at that time was getting spring training started on a good note.

Following practice, he was in a meeting with his staff and that focus quickly changed.

At that time, Heaton’s brother, David, a resident of Pleasant Grove, was preparing for vicious storm that moved through central Alabama Wednesday afternoon.

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David Heaton along with his three sons Riley, Gabriel and Christian were in the home’s basement as an EF-5 tornado barreled for their neighborhood.

In just a few minutes, David Heaton and his family went from being protected by their basement to being trapped in it after the tornado demolished their home.

“My brother was trapped under the house with his three boys,” Mark Heaton said. “That was scary to know. I was at practice when it hit them and in a meeting with my coaches when my dad called me.”

David Heaton’s family was stuck in their basement for more than an hour before crews were able to get them out. Upon stepping in his yard, he looked around and saw his neighborhood in devastation, according to Mark Heaton.

“David told my dad he looked to the left, to the right and in front of him then behind and said his town was gone,” Mark Heaton said.

With the disaster on Wednesday went more than 200 innocent lives in the State of Alabama, but David Heaton and his three sons were able to escape tragedy.

The Heatons grew up in Texas and have been through their fair share of severe weather including tornados.

“Coming from Texas, we know how to prepare for weather like that,” Mark Heaton said. “One of the things that saved their lives is my brother knowing how to prepare for that along with him being in law enforcement and the military. He was prepared when the tornado got on top of them he could see debris and he got everyone under the stairwell and put a mattress on top of them. His knowledge of what to do helped save their lives.”

It’s been three days since the tornado moved through and Heaton along with thousands of others are continuing to look through their properties trying to recover anything of importance.

Mark Heaton said his brother is scouring the site where his home once stood to find things like IDs and other necessities that his family needs. Mark Heaton will be traveling to Pleasant Grove today with supplies and other things to help his brother and other family members who suffered due to the storm.

“Right now, David is just trying to find anything important,” he said. “All they have at this time are the clothes on their back and their lives, which is the most important thing. I’ll be going up there today to get some supplies to them along with a Walmart gift card because it’s all I can think that will really help. That gift card will a big help because it will allow him to buy diapers, clothes and food to save his money. We had several people in our family lose things, so we are all coming together to help one another.”

With volunteers and aid coming from every direction, things will hopefully turn around for David Heaton and the other victims in Alabama, but until then at least they know they can rely on the love of family and friends.