Cherokee Valley's hero Tyler Long saved his family in the tornado aftermath

Cherokee Valley's hero Tyler Long saved his family in the tornado aftermath

June 8th, 2011 by Katie Ward in Catoosa

Featured on a recent episode of "American Idol," Ringgold hero Tyler Long, 11, saved his immediate family members who were injured in the recent tornado that struck their home in Cherokee Valley on Friendship Road. Hanging out at the Lauren Alaina watch party in Rossville from left are hero Tyler Long, with his family including grandma Donna Phillips, grandpa Garry Phillips, brother Conner Long, cousin Austin Estep, aunt Doylette Estep, uncle Tim Estep and cousin Destiny Burton. Photo by Katie Ward

Local Ringgold hero Tyler Long, 11, and his family members recently attended a Lauren Alaina "American Idol" finale watch party at the Renaissance Center in Rossville.

Tyler was featured on Lauren Alaina's hometown visit episode of "American Idol." Lauren spoke with Tyler one-on-one thanking him for saving his family members that were injured in the April 27 tornado in Cherokee Valley on Friendship Road.

Ringgold Councilman Randall Franks personally thanked Tyler at the watch party.

"He dug his cousin Nathan Estep out of the debris," said Franks. "He helped his mom who was injured and helped find his little brother. Tyler was the only one that could move around."

Franks said Tyler rescued his family members, making him a local hero.

"It was scary," said Tyler. "My mom and my brother are in the hospital."

Tyler's grandmother Donna Phillips said she is proud of him.

"He saved his 11-month-old brother Ryder's life," said Phillips, of Tyler. "He found him by his white diaper."

Tyler's aunt Doylette Estep said her husband Tim Estep and their sons Timothy and Austin Estep all helped tornado victims too.

"While the tornado was on the ground Tim was in his truck on his way to his mother's [Lorrain Estep's house]," said Doylette Estep. "We knew it would hit his mother's house because he filmed it and saw the path."

Doylette Estep said her husband Tim carried Tyler's parents to safety putting them in a vehicle to transport. She said someone found Lorrain and took her to safety as well. Austin Estep took his shoes off and gave the shoes to Tyler.

"Tyler was a hero," said Doylette Estep. "He saved his brother's life. It's a really amazing story. I don't know how any of them lived [through the tornado]."

Jack and Lorrain Estep, Robby and Veronica Long, David and Samantha Long's families all lived on the same corner of Friendship Road and Cherokee Valley Road. All three of their homes were demolished.

"My house is still standing on Salem Valley Road," said Doylette Estep. "We were within a few miles of the tornado."

Phillips said Tyler's family suffered injuries resulting from the tornado impact. Tyler's mother Veronica Long had a major leg injury resulting in numerous surgeries; his father Robby Long had rods put in to mend his broken arm and his brother Ryder had a head injury. Tyler's grandfather Jack Estep passed away in the tornado.