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UPDATED: Ellsworth area pair unhurt after twister flips vehicle

The Durango that was ridden by Dan Hines and Jessica Lansing.1 / 2
The interior of the Durango.2 / 2

TOWN OF TRIMBELLE--Dan Hines and Jessica Lansing were originally going to spend the night of June 25 going to River Falls for supper. Instead, it turned out to be a night the Ellsworth natives are never going to forget.

"We jumped in the (Dodge) Durango about 6:30 p.m. and headed out towards River Falls on the scenic route, both because we like to take our time and to avoid the road construction and traffic of a Friday night," Lansing said.

Hines, 22, who was driving, was eastbound on 570th Avenue, crossing CTH O (north of Hwy. 10) when the heavy rains let off enough to reveal a funnel cloud.

"Dan put the truck in reverse in an attempt to turn around and get out of there and head home, but it was too late," Lansing, 21, said.

The next thing the couple knew, they found themselves in a ditch inside the flipped SUV.

"Neither of us really felt the sensation of flying or anything until the impact of hitting the ground upside down," Lansing said.

She continued: "I can remember hitting the ground and thinking we were done moving, but then the rest of the truck rocked onto the roof so it was completely flat...The storm was so loud that we couldn't really hear the crunching of metal or breaking of glass. When they said tornadoes sound like a freight train, they aren't kidding."

That's when Hines took over, his fiancee said. First, he turned the Durango off, preventing a fire. Then, making sure she wasn't hurt, he kicked the far window on the passenger side the rest of the way out and cleared the glass away so they could escape out of it. He then helped Lansing get out of her seat and led the way out of the window.

The pair walked onto the road and, within minutes, Hines called 911 with Lansing's phone. While waiting for Pierce County Sheriff's deputies, Lansing said, a Schwan's truck drove by and the driver allowed the couple to sit in the cab.

"By that time, it was raining so hard you could barely see anything and it had started to hail," Lansing said.

Lansing said that, after deputies arrived, they drove around avoiding tornadoes and the hail. They eventually returned to their house on Kelly Road in Ellsworth for the night.

As for the Durango, Lansing said Melstrom's Towing was on the scene about 7:30 p.m. and told them the SUV was completely submerged in water upon their arrival.

"The only thing left out of the water was the tires," she said. "They had their own issues getting it out."

Lansing is certain they walked away unharmed thanks to Hines' insistence about seat belts.

"Dan has a very stern rule about seat belts," she explained. "No matter who you are, when you get in his truck to ride with him, you wear your seat belt or the drive never leaves park."

The pair are recent Ellsworth High School graduates. Dan is the son of William and Tracey Hines and Jessica is the daughter of Brian Lansing.

"We do everything together from hanging out with friends to going to school at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls," she said.