Utica, Ill. Searchers with shovels and buckets pulled eight bodies Wednesday from the rubble of a tavern where residents had gathered to seek shelter from a twister that flattened the century-old building.
Mayor Fred Esmond said several people from a nearby trailer park had congregated in the basement of the Milestone Tap on a night when dozens of twisters tore through the Midwest.
Nine people were removed alive from the ruins of the country-western-themed watering hole.
"They heard it on the radio. Some of them went to the tavern for safety, and it just so happened...," Esmond said, his voice trailing off.
Coroner Jody Bernard said the dead, who were found in various locations of the bar, ranged in age from 18 to 81. The two-story building's crumbling sandstone foundation slowed rescuers' efforts as they gingerly dug through the sandy rubble, using microphones to listen for signs of life.
Richard Little recalled rushing Tuesday night to the bar's basement as tornado sirens wailed outside. Moments later, he was sitting next to a freezer with fallen wood beams and an elderly man crouched next to him.
"You could hear kids screaming and adults screaming to let us know where they were buried," said Little, a 37-year-old truck driver who was hospitalized with a sore shoulder, ribs and back.
On Wednesday, all that remained standing of the tavern was the foundation and a rear part of the building. A pool table also stood amid the wreckage.
The twister cut a wide swath of destruction in this small town 90 miles southwest of Chicago, turning homes and businesses into piles of brick and splintered wood. More than 10 people were taken to hospitals, and at least six remained there Wednesday afternoon.