OTR Interviews

Father and Son Tell Terrifying Story of Survival in Alabama Tornado

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," April 28, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: And while everyone, though, is celebrating here in London, back home there is heartache, tornadoes ripping through seven states in the South, literally leveling towns. But you know, that isn't even the worst. The worst, of course, are the deaths. Right now, the death count is at a staggering number, 296 people. And that number is expected to climb. Reports came in of at least 150 tornado sightings stretching across Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, Kentucky and Arkansas.

Now, Alabama was hit the hardest, 204 people killed in just Alabama. Ground zero is Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Dr. David Hinton and his son, Dennis, are two of the lucky ones and they're lucky because they're alive, but they had to run for their lives. They join us.

Dennis, first to you. I know that you had a very harrowing experience. So tell me what happened. When did you first know that a tornado was barreling down on you? And tell me what happened.

DENNIS HINTON, SURVIVED TUSCALOOSA TORNADO: Well, Greta, first I'd like to thank you for letting us share our story today. You know, like everybody else, throughout the whole afternoon, we had just been, you know, watching the news, watching the storms come in. And we really didn't think it was actually going to hit us until we heard a report that it was, you know, a couple miles away. And you know, at that point, we realized we needed to get to our place of shelter. And you know, we started hearing the storm and we just hunkered down.

VAN SUSTEREN: So what happened? So it hit your house, is that right?

DENNIS HINTON: That's correct. You know, we got -- you know, we've always heard that you need to put as many walls in between you and the outside. So we got in the centermost room of our house, where there was no windows. You know, something we always hear is, you know, try to put any protection over you you can to protect yourself from the debris. I thought, you know, put the mattress over on top of us. We had our back to the wall. Myself, my girlfriend and my cousin -- there was three of us in the house. We held the mattress to us, and that pretty much saved our lives.

DR. DAVID HINTON, SURVIVED TUSCALOOSA TORNADO: And their house was totally devastated, totally torn down.

VAN SUSTEREN: Doctor, tell me...

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: There's a terrible satellite delay. I'm sorry. I apologize for that. Doctor, tell me, when you found out your son was alive, I imagine because I know that a lot of people weren't so lucky, you must have been ecstatic.

DR. DAVID HINTON: Oh, I was. I was actually at the hospital, and I had gone over to the DCH cancer treatment center, where I work, when the weather got bad to kind of check on things. And I looked out the window and saw the tornado just outside the hospital. His neighborhood is a very short distance from the hospital, just a couple of hundred yards and I knew that the tornado was either right on top of his neighborhood or very close by.

And so as soon as it passed, I got in my truck and drove as close as I could, and then after that, got into the neighborhood, going over the power lines that were all down and the trees that were down -- it was just a scene of destruction there -- and just thinking all the time that he to be dead. You know, when I saw how the neighborhood looked, I just thought there's no way he could have survived it.

And he had made his way out of the house by that time and over to the corner, and he saw me and started yelling for me. And we met then, and that was the most relieved I've ever been in my life. It was just incredible. We just hugged and told each other we loved each other. And I'm just so thankful that Dennis was alive. He didn't have a scratch on him, he or the two others in the house.

VAN SUSTEREN: Dennis, we always hear people who've been in tornadoes, they talk about the sound. Is it as deafening as everyone says?

DENNIS HINTON: It really is. You know, we've always, like you say, heard those reports over the years. And you know, honestly, we sort of joked about it. We didn't really think it was real, the freight train sound that -- you know, that everybody talks about. But you know, in my estimation, when it was a three quarters of a mile away to a mile away, you know, we started hearing the roar of it. As we hunkered down, it -- you know, it got louder and louder the closer it got. And you know, that was the scariest part, just the anticipation before it hit.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, thank you both. And obviously, you know, a horrible tragedy for you. I guess on the lucky side, you know, you're both alive, but a terrible -- terrible, what's happening in this part of the country. Thank you.