Arabi tornado victim in stable condition after house flies onto the street

Published: Mar. 24, 2022 at 3:41 PM CDT
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ARABI, La. (WVUE) - Dea Castellanos and James Burke noticed a tornado alert on their phones while at home Tuesday evening.

The married couple says they were both in their living room on the couch, as they heard the rain and wind beat down on their raised home. However, in a matter of seconds, they say their home was pushed off its cinder blocks, hit their parked car, and crashed right into Prosperity Street - 20 feet away from its foundation.

“This was tremendous because I never experienced anything like this ever in my life,” Castellanos said. “I’m not able to comprehend how can someone’s life change in a moment. This isn’t easy.”

The two made it out shaken up, but in better condition than their daughter, 22-year-old Maria Celeste Burke. The family says the young woman has muscular dystrophy and relies on three different machines to breathe. The tornado tossed her onto the floor, trapped under furniture. The scene sent her parents and boyfriend in a panic.

They said they tried to help her up and get her out of the home themselves, but were unsuccessful. They waited for first responders to arrive and help lift Burk out from her bedroom window.

She was then rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery. Her mother says she is stable after suffering internal bleeding.

In the days since the storm, both Castellanos and her husband have rummaged through what’s left of their possessions - mementos, furniture, and some of their daughter’s medical supplies that survived the tornado.

Calls and messages have blown up the family’s phones with people eager to donate or help clean up. The kindness brings them joy after some of the worst days of their lives.

“I know that I never saw my soul doing this. I know my house, future could be lost but a life, you can never replace,” Castellanos’ daughter-in-law Carina Contreras said.

The couple is now staying with their other daughter while they clean up and find a new place to live. However, with Maria Celeste Burke’s wheelchair, bed, and other equipment now unusable, they hope that non-profit organizations can help replace what they need and a GoFundMe page to pay for any other expenses.

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