‘It’s the hand of God’
One of the survivors of a furious storm that decimated a turkey farm outside of Geneva says it’s a miracle that her family survived.
“It’s the hand of God,” said Cindy Schultz, who had just been discharged over the weekend from St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester after being trapped in the wreckage of her temporary home.
Schultz normally lives by Meriden in Steele County, but had been staying in a camper with her mother and son on their turkey farm east of Geneva when the storm barreled in around 4:30 p.m. May 29.
Her 72-year-old mother is still fighting for her life in the intensive care unit at St. Mary’s.
“It breaks your heart to see her in that condition,” Schultz said.
Freeborn County Sheriff Kurt Freitag said the elderly woman has experienced significant swelling of the brain, broken ribs and collapsed lung. “She’s not in danger of dying, but has a long road to recovery,” he said.
Schultz is convinced that God kept them alive as they were being whipped around the trailer during a storm that was later determined by the National Weather Service to be straight line winds of 80 mph, and not a tornado as officials initially thought.
“If you’re not a believer in God, you should be,” Schultz says. “His hand was on every inch of that accident.”
Both Schultz and her mother were pinned in the trailer and unable to move. During the entire ordeal, Schultz said she remembers her mother asking for God’s help to get them out alive. “My mom calmly prayed the whole time out loud,” Schultz said.
She recalls the rain pouring inside the trailer. “We tried to hear each other, but rain was pouring in my ear,” Schultz said, adding that the wind was “so loud” making things difficult for them to communicate.
Throughout the entire ordeal the storm kept trying to pick up the trailer and launch it as a missile. “The trailer was lifting off the ground, but we weren’t airborne,” Schultz said. “We just tumbled along the ground.” She described the movements as “condensed, compact rolls.”
Schultz said there was twisted metal and wreckage surrounding them in every direction. “I couldn’t believe we didn't lose our heads,” she said. “There was so much damage around our heads.”
She said she knew they were in trouble when a turkey feeder from the nearby barn ended up between her and her mother in the camper.
To make matters worse, Schultz had no idea what had happened to her 13-year-old son, Rod. Schultz said he doesn’t want to talk about the incident much even with family members. “He’s scared,” she said. “He thought we were dead.”
Somehow Rod ended up landing on top of the camper. “I remember rolling,” he said. “I hit my butt on everything.”
Added his father, Larry Schultz: “It sucked him out of the trailer.”
At one point, Schultz saw her son clutching his brother’s pillow over his head to block the hail, rain as well as flying debris from pounding him. “The pillow protected me,” said Rod, who was clearly shaken by the ordeal. “It was like a shield to everything,” he added.
Frightened and dazed, Rod panicked even more when he discovered the storm flattened the turkey barn and whipped it around. “I was about to run into the barn, but there was no barn there,” he said. “When I didn’t see the barn, I panicked.”
Miraculously, Rod walked away from the wreckage unharmed.
But it was a different story for his mother and grandmother. Rod eventually reached into the twisted trailer to grab a cell phone from his mother to call 911 as well as his father.
“He’s a brave little boy,” his mother said.
Emergency rescuers from Geneva and Hollandale responded to the scene to rescue Schultz and her mother. It took emergency personnel a while to respond because of several power lines down in the area, according to Sgt. Keith Bolinger of the Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office. Once they got on the scene, it took at least 15 minutes to free them from the wreckage.
Asked how they got Schultz and her mother out, Bolinger responded, “as carefully as possible.” Rescuers utilized special tools to brace the trailer so the victims could be lifted out to safety.
Gold Cross Ambulance transported the victims to Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea. They were later transferred to St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester.
“They are just extremely lucky,” Sgt. Bolinger said shortly after the harrowing rescue.
Nearly 8,000 young turkeys perished in the storm when their barn was leveled. The Schultzs had brought the turkeys to the farm just four days earlier. Only a handful survived.
One of the EMTs with Ellendale Ambulance carried a funnel with six turkeys from the scene in hopes of keeping them alive at her place. Schultz’s son, Sidney, rescued one turkey, who at last reports was doing just fine.
“He takes him out in the grass to graze,” Cindy Schultz said of her son and the lonely turkey he rescued.
Schultz returned to the scene for the first time Sunday afternoon. “It’s pretty astonishing. It’s amazing,” she said. “When you see that mess, it's the hand of God. There is no other answer for it.”
Knowing things could have ended more tragically, Schultz said it was God alone who kept them alive.
“I’m just very thankful God protected us,” she said.
Schultz said she will never go back again to the farm to raise turkeys. “I’ve weathered so many storms out there,” she said. “I don’t want to go back. I’ve never felt real safe there.”