Amazing Survival Story: Jerry, Lisa Toops Talk About Taum Sauk Reservoir Collapse
1:07 PM, Dec 24, 2005
Click the video link to the right to watch the video report and hear their story. You can also click here to listen to their entire news conference.
KSDK-A remarkable story of survival from a family in the path of a breached reservoir.
For the first time, Jerry and Lisa Toops talk about the wall of water that washed away their home and their children.
It happened last week near Lesterville, Missouri.
Doctors at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's hospital say at one point, all three children needed respirators. All suffered from hypothermia.
Dr. Dennis O'Connor of SSM Cardinal Glennon Hospital says Tanner was so sick he almost died. He remains hospitalized and tools used to warm him up caused some burns; Tanner has undergone several skin grafts.
Last Wednesday, Jerry Toops heard his wife screaming for them to get out of their home located in the Johnson Shut-Ins State Park.
Then he heard a very loud, very unusual sound. "As soon as I got to my feet, the wall of water hit and I liken it to a head-on collision. It just ripped the room apart. One minute I'm standing on the floor and then I'm rolling around with the dresser and the bed and then waters' on top of me," he said.
The one billion gallons of water that swept the Toops' away came from the nearby Ameren UE Taum Sauk Resevoir. It had been breached.
Lisa and Jerry describe the first seconds after the impact and what it was like to swim inside of their own home.
Lisa says, "It seemed like it was slowly rising. But it took about all of ten seconds to completely fill the room. It rose up our legs and I told Tanner, hold your breath. And the water came up and we were under water."
And Jerry Toops said, "When I came to the top, I swam to the roof of our house. And I swam to the roof of our house and got on top of it and I knelt down and prayed. I prayed that they would be alright."
The family was separated. Jerry ended up in a tree. Lisa Toops had two of her three children with her; 5-year old Tanner and 7-month old Tucker.
Everyone eventually ended up first at a hospital in Ellington, and then in St. Louis.
Lisa says this Christmas will be a little different from previous ones but they will all be together.
Ironically, the Toops family had planned to move to Clark County in January. But in light of the circumstances, they will return to Lesterville and stay a few months longer...until they get their lives back together.
The Toops say they are extremely grateful to their neighbors in Lesterville, fire, police and civilian rescuers and their church.
PHOTO GALLERY:A look at the reservoir and destruction.
Click here to see helicopter video.