Death toll reaches 18 in Oklahoma tornadoes, storms

Mon Jun 3, 2013 8:22pm EDT

Mikie Hooper of Tuttle, Oklahoma, collects her belongings from her RV which was destroyed by a tornado in El Reno, Oklahoma, June 1, 2013. REUTERS/Bill Waugh

Mikie Hooper of Tuttle, Oklahoma, collects her belongings from her RV which was destroyed by a tornado in El Reno, Oklahoma, June 1, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Bill Waugh

(Reuters) - The death toll from deadly tornadoes and severe flooding that struck Oklahoma on Friday and Saturday has risen to 18, including 12 adults and six children, with the bodies of seven people still unidentified, the state's chief medical examiner said on Monday.

Officials on Monday added five victims - three adults and two unidentified children - to the tally of confirmed deaths, said Amy Elliott, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner's office.

Friday's spate of tornadoes landed just 11 days after a massive EF5 tornado, the most powerful rating, tore into Oklahoma City and its suburb of Moore, killing 24 people. Moore sustained limited damage in Friday's storms.

At least five tornadoes touched down in Oklahoma on Friday, catching motorists stuck in traffic on roadways around Oklahoma City and its suburbs.

The storms also caused flash flooding throughout the Oklahoma City area. The Oklahoma County Sheriff's Department said it conducted several water rescues on Friday and Saturday, helping dozens of people victimized by the flooding.

A 64-year-old man drowned on Saturday morning when he drove off a washed-out bridge in eastern Oklahoma County. His body was recovered a quarter-mile from where his vehicle was found, the sheriff's department said.

Of the 18 confirmed fatalities, nine were in Oklahoma City, while six were in its western suburbs - four in El Reno and two in Union City. The communities of Luther, Wewoka and Clearview, communities east of Oklahoma City, each recorded one fatality.

Three storm chasers who died in El Reno were among those killed in the storms and are among those identified by the medical examiner.

The three storm chasers are: Tim Samaras, 55, founder of the tornado research company, Twistex; his son, Paul Samaras, 24; and Carl Young, 45, a Twistex meteorologist.

The National Weather Service in Norman, Oklahoma, said that to its knowledge, "these are the first documented scientific storm intercept fatalities in a tornado."

(Reporting by David Bailey and Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Tim Dobbyn)