When 16-year-old Riley Leon was driving home from a job interview in his red 2004 Chevrolet Silverado 1500, he never expected bad weather to get him swept away by a tornado, but when he did, his worries afterward didn’t materialize. is he okay, is the truck — which he names “La Roja” — okay.
“I didn’t care about myself at the time. I am most worried about (the damage) being done to my truck,” Leon said. “It left me speechless seeing how bad my truck was.”
Leon suffered scratches to his arm and a broken back, but Saturday afternoon he was in high spirits at a Bruce Lowrie Chevrolet in Fort Worth, which has tracked the teenager down to reward him with a new 2022 red Chevy Silverado and $15,000 in other expenses. . Leon joins his family, who as they enter their new truck, embrace in tears.
“As a father, it was really difficult. I think all of us at Chevrolet, when we saw the video, we were all very touched. You know, you see what’s going on and you think your kid is in that truck going around in circles,” said Don Wagner, Chevy’s regional director for the South Central region. “Honestly we were so happy and grateful that he survived, and as soon as we recognized him, we immediately tried to reach out, try to find them.”
Although Leon repeated that he was grateful for the new vehicle, he admitted that he wished there was a way to repair his old truck that was handed down from his father and become a home for dozens of memories over the years.
“The truck had run in the family for a generation, before my sister was born, and it helped my dad get the house we lived in and everything,” Leon said. “That truck has a lot of sentimental value to me because I worked hard for it. I paid (my dad) for it and the truck has a lot of value to me and seeing how it ends up being tough, but hopefully I can fix it in the future.”
Leon said he was returning from a job interview at Elgin Whataburger when a tornado flipped his truck over to the right, turning it 360 degrees almost into the ditch before whipping it back up. Leon was able to drive a bit on the highway before pulling over.
“This is the first time I’ve been hit by a tornado, and hopefully it will be the last,” Leon said with a smile. “It was in seconds, never, never believe (this would happen to me). It happened so fast. I don’t have time to process the thoughts in my head.”
Leon plans to start his first shift at Whataburger on Monday. With regards to her injuries, for which a GoFundMe set up by a school nurse has raised more than $38,000, she says she drinks it every day.
“We’re taking it slow now so it doesn’t get any worse; hopefully in two weeks it will be better,” said Leon. “I am grateful (for my community). … They mean a lot to me. Shout out to them for helping me and my family.”
This story was originally published March 26, 2022 13:23.