Cherrystone Camper Lauds Emergency Response

July 29, 2014

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following letter was sent by the Riale family of Port Penn, Delaware, in appreciation for the service provided by local law enforcement, fire, and other first responders to the tornado at Cherrystone Campground.)

I am writing this letter in regard to the responses that were made in regard to the EF 1 tornado that struck Cherrystone Campground on the morning of July 24, 2014. My parents and my kids and I were camping there that morning when the tragic storm struck the grounds.

Just a little background on my family: my father has been in the fire service since 1964 and is a Past Fire Chief, and I have been in the service since 1994 and currently serve as my department’s Assistant Chief, and I am a Delaware State Police Dispatcher.

Once the storm started to lift that morning we made sure that my mother and kids were okay, and then my father, my son, and I started checking campsite to campsite for injured people. Within minutes we could hear the sirens of the responding units coming. We first were contacted by a Cape Charles police officer to join in the site checks. He informed us that the next streets over they were getting reports of worse things, so we ran over to that area.

While on the way a mother stated that her 11 year old was missing. Just a couple minutes later we found that girl walking down the street and the officer took her back to her parents. We continued onto the street worse hit and noticed campers removing a young boy from a tent site with a tree over it. We met up with a couple firemen from Cape Charles Fire Company that were assessing two more young girls who were lying next to their deceased parents.

The firemen acted quickly in making backboards out of the tops of picnic tables. My father and I assisted in loading and transporting the one young girl out to a waiting ambulance from the Exmore Fire Company. By the time we did that there were so many police units, ambulances, and fire units on the scene that me and my father’s attention went back to our own family.

In all of our experiences in the fire service I have never seen such organization of a disaster and the willingness to work together for the common good. The Cape Charles Officer, Cape Charles Fire, Virginia State Police, or the Northampton Sheriff’s Officers, never once said get away, we got this, etc. They all asked what we had, what we needed, and asked how they could help. We watched the command structure that was there that day organize site by site searches with no problems. For such a rural area compared to where I work and am from, the responses from these agencies were very fast, efficient, and bar none the very best I have ever seen in such a disaster. [Read more…]