Saturday, April 10, 1999

Photographer encounters death, devastation




BY LUCY MAY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

<        Cincinnati Enquirer photographer Craig Ruttle headed out toward Blue Ash about 5:30 a.m. to try to get photographs of the storm's devastation. Along the way, he found it was far worse than he could have imagined from the thunder he heard at his Wyoming home.

        He was entering northbound I-71 from the Pfeiffer Road entrance ramp when he saw it:

        “To my astonishment, there's a pickup truck upside down on the concrete barrier (near the median). It was not even on the ground but up on the barrier suspended.

        “I thought, "Oh my God.' I pulled over. I came up to the truck. There was nobody around.”

        Mr. Ruttle leaned down to look inside for the driver. In the dark, he couldn't see anyone inside the truck.

        “When I looked up, I saw the silhouette of a person sitting on the barrier.”

        It was Donald Busch Jr. of Blanchester.

        Mr. Busch told Mr. Ruttle that he was driving southbound in the storm when he saw blue flashes that he later figured were transformer explosions.

        Before he knew what was happening, debris started hitting Mr. Busch's windshield and his truck was lifted by the storm.

        “Next thing he knew, he was in the truck, dangling upside down, strapped in by his seat belt,” Mr. Ruttle said. “He was stunned by the whole thing, but alive.

        “He said something like, "I was lucky. That other guy wasn't quite so lucky.'”

        Mr. Ruttle looked across the interstate's northbound lanes.

        “Traffic was still moving,” Mr. Ruttle said. “There were highway department people looking around.”

        Mr. Ruttle crossed the interstate and came across the body of a man who had been ejected from his car.

        The thought struck him, “That man had just been killed.”

        He could see no sign of life.

        The man's car was a few hundred feet away, thrown into the brush near the highway.

        He had what appeared to be a severe head injury.

        Someone covered his body. When the life squad got there a few minutes later, they checked for life signs. Their attempts to help were futile. They covered his body again.

        “No matter how many times you've seen something like this, you still are shocked by the ferocity and how quickly these things take place,” Mr. Ruttle said.

        “It's just minutes from total normalcy to total chaos. The damage didn't really become clear to me until the light came up.”

       



Hope emerges from the rubble
Sirens worked, but some slept through
Families flew from their beds
Bengals coach: 'God's hand on me'
Driver got upside-down trip on freeway median
- Photographer encounters death, devastation
House is a cheap price to pay for life
Community safe, serene and vulnerable
In Addyston and Ripley County, some feel blessed just to be alive
Survivors eager to swap stories
Two died in field; two died on roads
Adjusters quick to arrive at disaster
To file a claim
Dealing with storm aftermath
Don't rush repairs after storm
Tips to picking a contractor
Kids need help to overcome grief, fears
Talking to kids
Phones, power out until Sunday
Rescue team did tough job
Storm could spur support for tax levy
Storms' memories linger after damage is repaired
Mobilization was instant
Tornado tales
TV/radio stations had reason to boast
Volunteers grab chain saws, mops as workers untangle wires
At least 7 businesses destroyed
911 calls reveal confusion, fear

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