75-year-old, son recall riding ETX tornado in a bathtub

75-year-old rode bathtub to survival during tornado
Updated: Jan. 24, 2017 at 11:11 PM CST
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(Source: Doug Warner/KSLA News 12)
(Source: Doug Warner/KSLA News 12)

SMITHLAND, TX (KSLA) - An East Texas woman says she went for a wild ride inside a powerful tornado - in her bathtub.

And just in case her story sounds unbelievable, you can ask her son about it. He was in the tub with her.

"I came out and looked and I saw clouds swirling around over there," Rickey Williams said as he pointed Tuesday at the calm, blue skies.

Late Saturday evening, however, the rain was non-stop and the wind kept getting stronger and stronger.

Rickey Williams said he ran outside just seconds after watching KSLA News 12 Chief Meteorologist Jeff Castles show a possible tornado on radar bearing down on the small community of Smithland, Texas.

"I didn't know what it is, but it started, 'Woo, woo, woo'," Rickey Williams' mother, Charlesletta Williams, said trying to mimic the sound of the tornado that had winds topping 130 mph.

Rickey Williams said he told his mother they needed to get into the bathtub. So they did.

Seconds later, he knew the tornado was on top of them.

"The whole house started shaking. I heard like a 'poof,' and I knew the roof came off."

Rickey Williams said he remembers the bathtub lifting straight up then spinning round and round.

"I can't tell you how high we were. It just felt like someone placed us on the ground."

With the winds still howling, Rickey Williams said he crawled to his mother some 20 feet away and laid across her body.

Recalling that moment with his mother, Rickey Williams reminded her what happened next.

"I asked if you are alive. And you said, 'Yes, but I can't breathe because you're suffocating me," Rickey Williams laughed, with Charlesletta Williams laughing alongside him.

"God was watching over her," Charlesletta Williams' daughter Mary Taylor said.

As unbelievable as a story about 2 people in a bathtub flying in a tornado might sound sound, Taylor emphatically stated:

"It happened. It happened."

But her mother hopes it never happens again.

"I tell you, I don't want to ride through another one."

Fundraiser planned
A fundraiser to help Charlesletta Williams and family rebuild from the storm will be held all day Feb. 11 in a parking lot at Highway 43 at Highway 49 in Smithland, Texas. Families will be making and selling food, and there will be games to play. Everyone is welcome to attend and/or help out, the family says.

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