It took only a couple of minutes for three construction workers to be lifted up from the ground in a 60-foot trailer and tossed about 100 yards when an EF-2 tornado tore through south Barrie last week.
Stephen Galyen, a site supervisor at Pace Developments, which is building residential townhomes in Barrie, returned to the construction office trailer after running a couple of errands with a coworker last Thursday afternoon.
When the two got back, Galyen said it was sunny outside, but that suddenly changed when it started to rain and became very dark.
“One of the guys looked out the back, and he goes, ‘Woah, it looks so dark out there. It looks like there’s going to be a tornado,'” Galyen recalled.
“We didn’t really think anything of it, and as I was looking out the back window, all our building supplies in the back … everything just blew up straight into the air.”
Galyen remembered flying up into the air and hitting the trailer’s ceiling before the structure rolled in the air and he hit the wall and floor.
“The whole trailer rolled over six different trucks that were parked out front,” he said. “We flattened all the roofs, crushed all the trucks and we blew across two streets.”
Galyen said he can’t remember if something hit him, but he thinks he may have flown out the window because he landed in a field with glass in his back and cuts on his head. He was unconscious for what he estimates to be 20 to 30 seconds.
“I woke up lying in the field and everything is blowing around, blowing around, so I kind of just lied there cupping my head, trying not to get hit with stuff,” he said.
After he saw a car blow by, he knew covering his head with his hands wasn’t going to protect him, so he found his coworkers who were also in the trailer, and they made it up the road before ambulances arrived. The three workers were then taken to the hospital.
“I have a broken nose, three dislocated fingers, a mild concussion and then just cuts everywhere,” Galyen said, adding one of his colleagues had a bad cut that required about 20 stitches and a broken rib, while another had big gashes on his arm, head and eyebrow, a cracked vertebrae and bruised lungs.
Galyen said he went back to work the day after the tornado last Friday to see if he could recover lost items like wallets and cellphones.
“When it happened, it was dark, things were blowing around,” he added. “So it was kind of like the first time I actually saw how bad it actually was and how far we flew down the road … It was pretty crazy to see actually how much damage there really was from it all.”
As for his two coworkers, Galyen said one was released from the hospital the same day that the tornado hit, while the other was kept there for a few days until Saturday.
“The job site was pretty much untouched,” Galyen said of the development his team is building, which is a bit further away from where the trailer was.
“Everything was fine back there — no damage, no nothing. None of the workers were injured or hurt back there.”
He said some of his coworkers saw the entire tornado unfold and radioed one another to go find him and his colleagues.
“They were actually looking for our bodies in the forest behind the job site,” Galyen said. “They thought we blew away with all the other stuff.”
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