UPDATED: New Jersey Filipino couple dies after tornado hits campground

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America

Updated July 25, 2014

CAPE CHARLES, Va. – What was supposed to be another great family camping trip turned into a nightmare When an EF 1 tornado ripped through a camping ground, popular among Filipinos, on the eastern shore of Virginia Thursday morning.

Philippine-born couple Lord Balatbat and Lolibeth Ortega, both 38 years old, were killed when a twister toppled a tree that came crashing down on their tent.

Meantime, in a nearby tent, their 13-year-old son Lheandrew, was also hit by a fallen tree and was seriously injured. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said Friday Lheandrew was in critical condition.

“They both died at the scene,” Virginia State Police spokesperson Corrine Geller said. ”Their 13-year-old son was in a neighboring tent. Another tree fell on that tent. He was one of those three transported to Children’s Hospital The King’s Daughters. He has life-threatening injuries.”

NJ.com reports that Lheandrew’ is now in a coma according to his grandfather Luis Balatbat.

His 12-year-old sister Lhariza Ann suffered leg and ear injuries while 7-year-old Lheanna was struck by a tree limb in the stomach.

All three children were sent to a nearby hospital.

Family friends say Balatbat worked as a manager in a Walgreens store in Greenville, NJ while Ortega worked in a lab.

Family friend Kharl Ibasco said, “Like I said, they’re great parents. They bend over backwards just to spend time with their kids.”

Another family friend, Melissa Lopez said, “We’re all so hurt. We still don’t even know if this is really real. It’s really hard.”

Authorities said when the storm hit more than 1,300 vacationers and staff were at the campground, including the Filipino family.

Virginia State Police said more than 30 people with minor injuries like cuts and broken bones were taken to nearby hospitals.

The severe storm toppled trees and flipped RV’s.

The couple’s family in New Jersey declined to be interviewed on camera at this time.

The Balatbat family is now in the process of making arrangements to bring the couples’ remains home and to attend to the injured children’s needs in Virginia.

Nj.com also reported that one of Lord Balatbat’s brothers, Lovel, was also in Virginia on the camping trip. A report form the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC said Lovel was not injured.

Also with them was Ortega’s sister and her two children but it is not known if they were among the 34 other injured victims. Deputy Consul General Patron reported that the Balatbat couple were US citizens.

According to Embassy officials, the Philippines is ready to extend assistance to the family of the victims including the seriously injured son.

The Embassy and the Philippine Consulate General in New York will be sending a team to Cape Charles, Virginia as soon as possible.

You may contact Don Tagala at don_tagala@abs-cbn.com for more information.

ORIGINAL REPORT BELOW

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

July 24, 2014

JERSEY CITY, NJ – Lord Balatbat and Lolibeth Ortega, both 38 years old, were killed and their son was injured after a tornado swept through the Cherrystone Family Campgrounds in Cape Charles, Virginia on Thursday.

Virginia State Police said more than thirty people with minor injuries like cuts and broken bones were taken to nearby hospitals. Authorities said, when the storm hit, more than 1,300 vacationers and staff were at the campground, including the Filipino family. The severe storm toppled trees and flipped RVs.

Reports cited that the Filipino couple were killed when a tree fell onto their tent. Their 13-year old son, who was reportedly in a nearby tent, has life-threatening injuries.

Corrinne Geller, a spokesperson for the Virginia State Police said, “”A tree did fall on two tents. One of the tents contained a husband and wife, both 38 years of age. They are from Jersey City, New Jersey. And they both died at the scene. Their 13-year-old son was in a neighboring tent. Another tree fell on that tent. He was one of those three transported to Children’s Hospital The King’s Daughters, He has life-threatening injuries.”

You may contact Don Tagala at don_tagala@abs-cbn.com for more information.

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