Seconds save Trooper's life in tornado

By: Tim Johnston Email
By: Tim Johnston Email

More than a week has passed since the EF-3 tornado tore through downtown West Liberty. For State Trooper Jeff Crase, he still recalls that Friday evening and the decision that forever changed his life.

"I came across Kentucky 7, traveling west toward West Liberty, when the Morehead [KSP] post put out for everybody to take shelter and when I came around the curve, basically I was looking at it," recalled Trooper Crase.

The trooper said he had to choose; a right turn would take him Sandy Hook, a left turn to West Liberty. He turned left.

"What I didn't realize was I was going to drive in the path of it."

Just moments before the deadly twister hit town, Trooper Crase and another man were seen rushing into the West Liberty Police Department. It was the last image the cameras caught. Roughly 20 seconds later, the power went out.

"I didn't realize that we were that close to actually being hit when I went through that door [at West Liberty Police Department]," admitted Trooper Crase, "20 seconds out that wasn't a lot of time."

Trooper Crase said he didn't even realize there was another man running in front of him, until he saw the video replayed. He said it was so crazy and it happened so fast, he couldn't take everything in. Instead, he just remembers yelling for everyone to get to safety.

"Everybody was just trying to find something to hang on to," said Trooper Crase of the group of people taking cover in the garage below the police department.

When Trooper Crase and the others came out, there was little time to look around town. It was time to go to work.

"We had people laying in the street," described Trooper Crase, "a lot of people hollering for help."

The storm knocked out all phones and the West Liberty radios, Trooper Crase had one of the only working channels to communicate.

"I was lucky. The antennae was broken on the car but it still transmitted. I did have contact with the Morehead post and they were able to help," said Trooper Crase.

Today was the first day Trooper Crase took a look at what was left of his cruiser, it wasn't much. The windshield was shattered, heavy dents were all along the car, and all the trooper could think was what if he'd been inside.

"I don't think I'd have survived it [the tornado] if I had been in it [the cruiser]," stated Trooper Crase.

While time has passed since the storm, this trooper will always think about the decision he made and the 20 second dash that saved his life.

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