Ottawa Tornado Tragedy: Falling Tree Kills Two Men

(CBS) – A second person has died from injuries incurred during Tuesday’s tornado strike in LaSalle County — struck by the same falling tree that killed another Ottawa resident.

Through tear-stained eyes, family members want the world to know DJ Johnson, 31, died a hero.

“He stepped in harm’s way to pull his partner away, so he would not get hurt,” Johnson’s father, Donald, tells CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole.

As a strong tornado whipped through Ottawa, DJ and Toby Tuntland were rushing for shelter inside Toby’s fathers home. That is when an enormous, five-story tree fell forward.

DJ was hit as he pushed Toby to safety. He was trapped underneath, and neighbors tried to free him.

“He had a vague, vague pulse. He was very sheet-white,” Myriah Douglas says.

Crews eventually cut DJ’s body free from the thick branches and rushed him to the hospital.

That’s when they discovered 76-year-old Wayne Tuntland, Toby’s father. He was also in the yard and had been killed instantly by the falling tree.

DJ passed away Wednesday, hours after the incident.

“They say time heals all, but it still hurts,” David Johnson says.

A fundraising page has been set up to pay for DJ’s funeral expenses.

Authorities say the tornado that struck Ottawa and Naplate was an EF-3 reaching speeds of up to 155 mph. Several others were injured, and properties were destroyed.

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