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Survivors of reservoir disaster tell their story

KWMU Photo
Jerry and Lisa Toops speak to reporters in St. Louis about their brush with death when the Taum Sauk Reservoir ruptured and destroyed their home near Lesterville Dec. 14.

By Kevin Lavery, KWMU

St.. Louis, MO – Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park Superintendent Jerry Toops and his wife Lisa recounted the morning when more than a billion gallons of water crashed through their home in the park.

First came the loud rumbling Jerry said sounded like "a whole cavalcade of F-14's, plus maybe five or 10 trains."

Lisa found five-year-old Tanner. She and Tanner prayed as the water rushed in.

"He just kept saying, Jesus save us, Jesus save us,'" Lisa Toops said. "And then the ceiling started coming down on us. If you've ever looked at an egg cracking, that's what our roof did. And my first thought then was, thank you, Lord - we're not going to drown in Tanner's room.'

Meanwhile, Jerry rushed to save seven-month-old Tucker.

"One minute I'm standing on the floor, and the next minute I'm rolling around with the dresser and the bed and then water is on top of me," Jerry Toops said. "And I probably swam through 20 or 30 feet of water before I got to the top. And I swam to the roof of our house and got on top of it, and I knelt down and prayed.

Tanner remains in fair condition at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St. Louis. Tucker and his three-year-old sister, Tara, are being treated as outpatients.

Their doctor says the prognosis for all the children is good.

Donations can be made to:

Jerry & Lisa Toops Fund

c/o Commerce Bank

1102 Bradley

Festus, MO 63028

Checks should be made out to Jerry or Lisa Toops.

Donors may also make a donation at the teller counter of any Commerce Bank.

Donations are also accepted at:

Missouri Parks Association for the benefit of the Toops Family

Enterprise Bank and Trust

300 St. Peters Center Blvd.

St. Peters, MO 63376


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