Pinoy couple dies after tornado hits Virginia

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Jul 25 2014 12:37 PM | Updated as of Jul 26 2014 08:35 PM

CAPE CHARLES, Virginia (UPDATED) - 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, was killed when a twister toppled a tree that came crashing down on their tent.

"They both died at the scene," Virginia State Police spokesperson Corrine Geller said.

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.

"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," added Geller. reported 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 said 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. also reported that one of Lord Balatbat’s brothers, Lovel, was also in Virginia on the camping trip. A report from 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 Zaldy Patron reported that the Balatbat couple was US citizens.

Meanwhile, the embassy called on the Filipino community in the United States to pray for the Fil-Am couple killed in the tornado.

"We would like to extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones of Lord Balatbat and Lolibeth Ortega," Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. said. "We would like to invite the Filipino-American Community to offer prayers for the couple and the loved ones who they left behind."

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