By Rebekah Riess, CNN
The 16-year-old driver of the pickup truck seen in a viral video getting blown over and tossed around in high winds from a reported tornado near Elgin, Texas, earlier this week, says he is blessed to be alive.
Riley Leon, a Junior at a charter school in Austin, was on his way home from a job interview at Whataburger in a red Silverado and had to make several U-turns due to heavy rain, when his truck was picked up by the tornado, the teen told CNN.
Riley said he landed in the middle of the road. “When everything stopped, I drove off to the side of the road to get out of the way,” he told CNN. Riley then called his mother to tell her what had happened.
“I called my mom. I was like: ‘Mom, the tornado took me,'” Riley said, adding that his mother initially thought Riley was mistaken and had perhaps experienced a broken mirror or headlight. When she arrived on the scene, however, she quickly realized the gravity of the situation. “She was surprised,” Riley said.” She was like ‘You’re a blessing that you’re here.'”
Around 30 minutes after the accident, Riley’s brother showed him the now-viral video of the incident. “It’s a blessing to be here honestly,” the teen told CNN.
Chevrolet has announced that they are now donating a 2022 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LT All Star Edition in Cherry Red to Riley Leon and his family. “We are thankful Riley is safe, commend his driving skills during a frightening situation, and our hearts are with other families in Texas that have been affected by these storms,” Chevrolet said in a statement, adding that they will also help aid the recovery efforts in Texas, by donating $50,000 to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.
The new truck will be presented to Riley and his family at a Chevrolet dealership in Fort Worth on Saturday. He will start his new job at Whataburger on Monday, Riley told CNN.
Riley is currently suffering from fractures in his back and may need surgery and rehabilitation, a spokesperson from his school, IDEA Rundberg, told CNN. The campus nurse has started a GoFundMe to cover the family’s medical costs.
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