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Tornado victims include animal lover, man in truck

Saturday - 5/25/2013, 9:33pm  ET

This undated handout photo provided by Brandie Candelaria shows Antonia Candelaria. Candelaria was killed when a tornado struck Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla., on Monday, May 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Brandie Candelaria)

Associated Press

MOORE, Okla. (AP) -- One was an animal lover. Another loved the spotlight. Another was nicknamed "The Wall" because of the force he brought to the soccer field.

When a top-of-the-scale EF5 tornado ripped through Moore, Okla., it took with it 24 lives. Seven of them were children at Plaza Towers Elementary school; two were only babies.

These are the victims' stories.


Gina Stromski, 51

Stromski was the kind of person who was generous to people almost to a fault. She loved her late husband, her pets and Oklahoma City Thunder basketball.

"She was fiercely independent, but kind, loving and generous to a fault, giving when sometimes she didn't have it to give," her family wrote in her obituary.

She had a soft spot for her pets, which she treated like family members, and had her constant companion -- her dog, Wylie -- by her side in the storm.

"The void she leaves in our lives is unimaginable," her family wrote. "We can't wait for the day we see her again."


Richard Charles Brown II, 41

Brown died when the light truck he was driving collided with two tractor-trailer rigs that had stopped on the H.E. Bailey Turnpike amid the cleanup immediately following the storm.

Highway crews were clearing debris from the turnpike when Brown approached at "a high rate of speed," according to the Highway Patrol. After hitting the rigs, Brown's truck rolled and he was ejected.

The Oklahoma Medical Examiner's office considers Brown's death among the 24 from Monday's storm.


JaNae Hornsby, 9

One of seven children killed inside the Plaza Towers Elementary School, JaNae loved to draw and sing. She loved being the center of attention, her father said.

JaNae's house, just three blocks from the school, also was destroyed by the tornado. Her father wanted to go back to the property to see if he could find a few of JaNae's things to keep.

"JaNae was the life of the party. If JaNae was there you were having a good time. She liked to sing, be a big sister, be a big cousin. She liked to draw," he said, smiling, as he remembered his little girl.

As family gathered to make funeral arrangements and comfort one another, Hornsby looked behind him into the house.

"If she was here she would just have everybody laughing and she would be in the midst of everything. She loved the spotlight," he said.


Karrina Vargyas, 4

Karrina was not quite old enough to be at school like her two older siblings. So she was at home huddled in a bathtub with her mother, younger sister and grandmother.

The tornado threw the women and children in different directions. Her parents could not find Karrina that night. It was only later that they learned that searchers had found Karrina's body in the rubble of what had been a neighbor's house.

Her father, Phillip Vargyas, said Karrina "had a smile that would light up the room." And whenever he fells the pain of her loss, her father said he likes to think of Karrina giving him a little hug.

"She was something else," Phillip Vargyas told The Oklahoman newspaper. "She wanted to figure skate. That was her dream in life."


Sydnee Vargyas, 7 months

Just 7 months old, Sydnee had crawled for the first time on Sunday. But she never really got to enjoy her newfound freedom.

Sydnee was huddled in the bathtub of her south Oklahoma City home with her older sister, mother and grandmother as a tornado bore down on them. The strong winds pulled Sydnee out of her mother's grasp.

When the debris stopped swirling, Laurinda Vargyas said she found Sydnee on a driveway.

"She was just laying there helpless. All I could do was sit there and hold her. She was already gone," Laurinda Vargyas told The Oklahoman newspaper. "They say she didn't suffer. So I've got to find peace with that."


Terri Long, 49

Long, a mother of three, was driving home from her job as a registrar at the Federal Aviation Administration when she stopped at a 7-Eleven store about 2 miles from her home. That's where she died when the tornado hit.

"I have no idea why she stopped there; I'm still trying to figure that out," said her husband of 10 years, Ken Long, his voice cracking with sorrow. But he has a guess: "She was probably trying to get away" from the tornado.

For several hours after the tornado, Long didn't know of his wife's fate -- not until her brother called her cellphone, and a police officer answered by saying her purse had been found at the convenience store.

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