AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s a storyline that couldn’t be more Texas.
A 16-year-old said he was driving home from a job interview Monday at Whataburger when his red truck was picked up by a tornado, thrown around a few times and spit out upright. In a now-viral video of the event, the truck can be seen landing on all four tires before speeding away.
The teen behind the wheel was Riley Leon and he’s alive to tell the tale.
“I had missed a couple U-turns due to heavy rain and when I caught a third U-turn — where I was going to take the turn — is when the tornado come and picked up my truck and I went flying,” Leon said.
It happened fast enough that Leon says he had no idea the tornado was coming, nor did he realize he was inside one until later. Even the windows of his truck shattering didn’t quite register.
“It was mostly like a blur because I didn’t know what happened during that moment. I just knew that my truck landed and I just drove off,” he said.
His family’s truck is totaled, but Leon was wearing his seatbelt and miraculously walked away, with a few cuts on his arms and a minor fracture in his back, which he discovered after going to the doctor’s office a few days later.
“I’m pretty thankful to God for giving me another chance, for giving me another chance in this life,” he said.
That now-famous red truck has been in Leon’s family for a decade and is sentimental, Leon said. He was more disappointed about the condition of that truck than anything when we talked to him Thursday.
But after the video of Leon’s narrow escape went viral on social media, Chevrolet offered up a new one which will be donated to Leon at a Fort Worth dealership Saturday.
“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,” Chevrolet said, adding it’s donating $50,000 to the Red Cross to help with Texas recovery efforts after Monday’s tornado outbreak.
Leon will be getting a 2022 Silverado 1500 LT All Star Edition in, you guessed it, cherry red. He can use the truck to drive to and from his new job at Whataburger.
Leon does not have health insurance, but a school nurse at IDEA Rundberg, the charter school Leon attends, started a GoFundMe for his medical bills Thursday.
“It means a lot that the school is also trying to help me out and that everybody is worried about me,” Leon said. “Thank God I’m here safe.”