Central Texas girl found dangling from cedar tree after tornado in critical condition

Family of four, including baby, hospitalized; pregnant mother suffered a miscarriage
Published: Apr. 14, 2022 at 5:49 PM CDT
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SALADO, Texas (KWTX) - An entire Central Texas family is in the hospital after suffering critical injuries when an EF-3 tornado ripped through an area southwest of Salado Tuesday, destroyed their mobile home, and flung them hundreds of feet away.

The most critically injured is Miriam Rios, 6, a girl found unconscious and dangling upside down from a cedar tree where the wind had tossed her hundreds of yards from her house. Her pregnant mother, Vanessa Rios, suffered a miscarriage.

23 people were injured and 12 hospitalized, according to Bell County Judge David Blackburn.

The Rios Family - mom, dad and their two children, were in their mobile home off FM2843 Tuesday night when the tornado warnings came in. The children’s uncle, Stephen Perez, said the family first tried to drive off but when hail began to fall, they retreated back into their mobile home.

The situation quickly worsened. The tornado with peak winds of a 165 mph tore the family’s home to shreds and flung each member of the family in a different direction.

Learn how you can donate to the Central Texas Tornado Relief Fund

Joel and Vanessa Rios seen here with daughter Miriam during their wedding
Joel and Vanessa Rios seen here with daughter Miriam during their wedding(Courtesy Photo)

Father Joel Rios thrown to one side. The mother landed on the other side.

The couple’s one-year-old baby, Ezra, landed somewhere in the fields nearby. Six-year-old Miriam was flung into a tree.

“[Their mom] remembers waking up, rolling over on her side, and seeing her daughter in a tree and she can’t get up or do anything. She just rolled over and cried,” said Perez.

After the entire family was rushed to the hospital, they learned the mother, Vanessa Perez, had miscarried the baby she was pregnant with.

Since then, Perez said multiple members of the family have been in and out of various surgeries meant to repair broken pelvic bones and address spinal cord injuries.

Perez said baby Ezra miraculously suffered the mildest of injuries and should be released from the hospital soon.

While the family is grateful for the baby’s health, they are still in awe of just how much they’ve lost. Miriam, a first grader at Salado ISD, was set to celebrate her seventh birthday on Saturday.

The Rios have also lost their house and everything in it. “It’s just the foundation that’s left. There’s absolutely nothing,” Perez said. “And [my sister] was really proud about that home.”

Community members have begun various efforts to help the family with medical bills and with their needs once they are released from the hospital. Perez has created a GoFundme page to help his family rebuild. You can donate to it here.

You can also donate physical items to the family. Those can be dropped off at 213 Mill Creek Dr. Suite 110, Salado, Texas 76571.

Donations in the form of a check can be made out to the parents Joel & Vanessa Rios and sent to Solana Ranch PO Box 1199 Salado, Texas 76571.

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