Sammy Walker-Neil Heslop-Tornado death-Willowbrook Drive

Sammy Walker set up a sign in front of Neil Heslop's home on Willowbrook Drive that reads: "Please pray for Barbara and Family."

On the night of Dec. 26 when an EF-4 tornado devastated parts of Rowlett, Sammy Walker, with the help of other neighbors on Willowbrook Drive, dug his neighbor Neil Heslop out of the debris of his leveled house.

Walker built a safe room in his home two years ago and his house sustained some damage, but when he came out of the room following the tornado he saw the devastation on the rest of his street, particularly across the street at Heslop’s.

He heard screams and ran to Heslop’s aid, and with the help of Bruce Hargrave and his son, Daniel Walker, they pulled Heslop out of the rubble. Walker and Hargrave put Heslop into Walker’s truck and dodged debris and vehicles to take Heslop to Lake Pointe Medical Center. 

By the time they reached the hospital, Walker had four flat tires, and Heslop was fighting for his life with punctured lungs and a nearly severed arm, according to Walker.

“He was transferred to Parkland and was in critical condition the last several weeks,” Walker said. “He had several surgeries and we thought he was getting better, but after the last surgery he got weak.”

Heslop died from his injuries on Jan. 13. He is the first Rowlett tornado victim who has died.

Walker, a former Olympian and longtime Rowlett resident, said Heslop lived in Rowlett for over 20 years and was a customer at his restaurant, Sammy Walker’s Barbeque.

Heslop lived with his sister, Barbara Griffith, and his nephews, according to Walker. Griffith’s husband died last year and Walker said it is still too early to tell when her house will be rebuilt.  

“She’s just beside herself but very thankful,” Walker said of Griffith. “She’s just tired and ready for this to be over with.”

Walker and Hargrave will be recognized by for their heroic efforts at this week’s council meeting on Tuesday.

“Folks have gone above and beyond and we get to recognize them for their accomplishments and service,” said Mayor Todd Gottel.  “There were a lot of individuals who stepped up that night and Sammy is an example of this.”

To stay current on city news, follow @Rowlett_News on Twitter. 

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