Birthday turns to day of grief for family after father, stepmother killed in Brunswick tornado

Birthday turns to day of grief for family after father, stepmother killed in Brunswick tornado
North Carolina authorities say at least three people are dead and 10 others were injured after a tornado ripped through Brunswick County, leaving a trail of heavy destruction. (Source: Brunswick County Sheriff's Office via Facebook)

SUNSET BEACH, N.C. (WRAL) - Two of the three people killed by a Monday night tornado in Brunswick County were a retired couple getting ready to celebrate the man’s birthday.

Richard and Phyllis O’Connor were asleep in bed when the storm hit shortly before midnight and leveled their home. The tornado picked up the house and dropped it on a neighbor’s house in the Ocean Ridge Plantation subdivision, flattening both, according to son Rob O’Connor.

Tuesday would have been Richard O’Connor’s 73rd birthday.

“It’s been just catastrophic. I mean, it’s like a bomb literally went off at their house,” said Rob O’Connor, who was on his way from his home in Arizona to North Carolina to help his two brothers through what’s left of the home and make plans to bury their father and stepmother.

One of his brothers called him Tuesday to tell him about the tornado.

“I had to pull over,” he said. “I thought it was a nightmare, and I was waiting to wake up.”

During a visit to the devastated neighborhood, Gov. Roy Cooper learned that the spouse of the third tornado victim was hospitalized in critical condition.

More than 50 homes were damaged in the Ocean Ridge Plantation neighborhood, which is off U.S. Highway 17 and N.C. Highway 904, and 10 people were hurt.

The National Weather Service said an EF-3 tornado packing winds of up to 160 mph tore across the county and into neighboring Columbus County.

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