He is the boy who got sucked up into a tornado – and lived to tell the tale.
Eight-year-old Reginald Epps Jr was picked up off his feet and pulled into the swirling darkness when one of the Alabama twisters tore through his home.
As his family cowered beneath him he was carried through the air some 30ft before being set down again with just cuts and bruises.
When the wind died down his terrified family looked up to see him walking towards them – and were stunned to see he was still alive.
Reginald Jr, known as RJ, was at home in Coaling, Alabama when the tornado swept through at 200mph.
At home were his father Reginald, 35, mother Danielle, 36, and brothers James and Joel, six and four.
Speaking from his hospital bed in the Regional Medical Centre in Tuscaloosa, Mr Epps said that the family were watching the TV when they heard the tornado could be coming towards them.
The firefighter said: ‘It was just after 5pm and I was due to be at work an hour later, but I thought I’d wait and see what was going to happen.
‘I had just got some flashlights for me and my wife and we were all in the kitchen when we heard the wind pick up. Then the windows at the back of the house blew out, it was like they popped.
‘I shouted at RJ to get up and come with us to the bedroom but when we made it in this roar started.
‘I looked up and the walls and the roof came away and RJ few off with them.
‘It happened in an instant, he just got sucked away from me. I tried to reach up for him but I couldn’t stop him. It was like he was on a bit of string being pulled from behind.
‘Then I got down on top of James whilst Danielle got on top of Joel to protect them. I got hit by flying glass and other stuff and we held on and prayed for our lives.
‘Danielle was saying: ‘God, protect us! God protect us!’ and I said to James in his ear, I will never forget his face: ‘It’s OK buddy, I’m here for you, I’ll protect you’.’
After just 30 seconds the tornado passed on, leaving their home utterly destroyed.
Mr Epps said: ‘When it settled down I could see this dark silhouette walking towards us and realised it was RJ.
‘I couldn’t believe it.
‘I shouted: ‘Hey! Come here’ and he came towards us and we huddled together for a bit longer until I was sure it was over.’
Mr Epps, RJ and James were all taken to hospital and the children were released that day with just cuts and bruises.
Mr Epps is still being treated for a punctured lung, three fractured ribs and cuts and bruises.
‘RJ told one of the nurses that he was floated up inside the tornado and he floated back down. He said he saw the flashlights and started walked towards them. He saw the lights and he came to us.
‘To think that that happened is incredible given how powerful that tornado was. I had some planks of wood in the yard and they went through my neighbour’s house.
‘RJ could have been anywhere by now.’
Mr Epps added that he has not spoken to RJ about what happened but his wife, a pre school teacher, told him that the child is so traumatised he is not sleeping.
‘RJ told her: ‘We had a rough night’, he said.
By Daniel Bates
Last updated at 10:51 PM on 1st May 2011
Source: Daily Mail