NWS confirms EF-1 tornado led to SC man's death

by: Greg Suskin Updated:

WHITMIRE, S.C. - The National Weather Service confirmed Tuesday afternoon that an EF-1 tornado hit Whitmire, South Carolina, which caused a mobile home to flip over with a 65-year-old man inside.

The tornado's path was 1.25 miles long and about 150 yards wide when it touched down, according to the NWS. Officials said winds speed reached up to 100 miles per hour.

Residents on Eaves Road said the storm moved in quickly. They said one minute there was only rain and the next, very strong winds hit. Neighbor Bruce Mull rushed to get his dog inside the house when the storm started to roll in.

"I seen a big dark cloud go right between those two roads right there," Mull said. "It wasn't maybe a minute and I said it's over with."

The Union County Coroner's Office said that J.C. Matthews Jr. was dead by the time emergency help arrived Monday at the scene of his destroyed home. An autopsy is planned for Tuesday.

Click PLAY to see the damage left behind after the deadly tornado

Authorities say Matthews' brother rushed to the wreckage after seeing the mobile home and spoke to the injured man before calling for help.

"He was alive, and didn't look too injured, and he actually said himself he knew he was going to pass away, and he did unfortunately," neighbor Sean Dechant said.

Mull said it still hasn't sunk in that his friend lost his life in the storm.

"He's one of the best guys in the world. I loved him to death," Mull said.

Neighbors told Channel 9 that a big problem is that the area is so remote that 911 calls on their cellphones don't go through. They said it took them a long time to reach emergency crews. 

The storm caused other damage in the area. No one else appears to have been injured.

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