- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A 21-year-old member of the University of Alabama swim team taking shelter in the basement of a home was among those killed by tornadoes that swept across the Midwest and South this week.

John Servati, a junior from Tupelo, Miss., was killed Monday night when a retaining wall collapsed, said Tuscaloosa city spokeswoman Deidre Stalnaker.

Servati, a business major who made the dean’s list, competed in three events at the Southeastern Conference championships last year. He was also a three-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll.

“John Servati was an extraordinary young man of great character and warmth who had a tremendously giving spirit,” UA head coach Dennis Pursley said.

Servati scored for Alabama at the SEC Championships. He competed in the backstroke and freestyle and set two Mississippi state records in high school.

“John definitely had a genuine heart,” Tide team captain Phillip Deaton said. “He was a carefree guy who always had this huge smile on his face. He was my training partner for three years and I can tell you that while he liked to goof around and have fun, when he stepped up on the block he was intensely focused. He was a competitor and an amazing teammate.”


Ruth Bennett died clutching the last child left at her Louisville, Miss., day care center, as a tornado wiped her business off its foundation, strewing it into the backyard of a neighboring home.

Bennett’s niece, Tanisha Lockett, said all but the one child had been picked up from Ruth’s Child Care Center before the storm hit. She said the 4-year-old had been coming to the center since she was a baby. The child, who has not been identified, was transported to a Jackson hospital. Her condition was not known.

Lockett said Bennett had been running her own child care center for seven years.

“She just wants to help children and run her own business,” Lockett said. “I left her (Bennett) her and I wish I had stayed because she asked me to stay with her.”


The fierce tornado that swept through Arkansas killed two sisters and their father, part of a large family that had gathered for a “normal” evening before the storm drove them to seek shelter under a staircase.

“You could just see the wind was just crazy,” Emily Tittle, 17, said Monday as she searched for keepsakes in the ruins of her family’s rural home west of Little Rock.

Tittle said she, her eight siblings and her parents scurried for safety under the stairs in the two-story house, but only half of them made it before the walls were obliterated by the twister. Her father, Rob Tittle, and two sisters, Tori, 20, and Rebekah, 14, were killed. All six of her other siblings were taken to hospitals, three of whom have since been released.

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