Chevy Donates New Truck to Texas Teen in Viral Tornado Video
The story behind the viral video of the red pickup truck being thrown around like a rag doll by a tornado that tore through Texas this week just keeps getting better.
Storm chaser Brian Emfinger's footage from Elgin of a Chevy Silverado being flipped over onto its right side, spun 360 degrees, and then put upright again and then simply driving away down U.S. Highway 290 immediately captivated the internet.
As interest in the story grew, local news crews set about tracking down the lucky driver, who was later identified as 16-year-old Riley Leon.
"When I landed on my wheels my hands landed on my lap and I saw everything and I was like probably nothing happened," he recalled. "I wasn't scared that much, but it was a shocking moment for me."
But when Leon pulled over, he saw that his red Chevy truck was dented and severely scratched with the glass shattered. It was essentially totaled.
"It broke me down seeing my hard work is gone," he told the news station. "It is family-owned but my dad passed it to me, but I paid him off."
Last week, Chevy announced that they would be giving Leon a brand-new 2022 Silverado. He and his family accepted the new truck and a $15,000 check at Bruce Lowrie Chevrolet in Fort Worth on Saturday, March 26—in time for him to start his new job at Whataburger on Monday.
"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," the company wrote on Facebook, adding that Chevy Cares is donating $50,000 to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund to help with recovery efforts.
Leon has a new job, a new truck, and a new nickname at school, "tornado boy," but the experience hasn't all been positive. According to a GoFundMe set up by Bianca Jaimes, the nurse at IDEA Rundberg in Austin, Leon recently learned that he suffered a fractured back in the incident. His family does not have health insurance and he will need future medical care.
So far, the fundraiser has brought in $42,000.
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"Let's rally around this young man and help him out in this time of need," Jaimes wrote in the GoFundMe. "He is a lovely, bright student making plans to graduate next year and could genuinely use some love from our community and anyone else who may have viewed this video and prayed for the passengers."
We're rooting for you, Riley!