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Historic church destroyed, member killed in apparent Hancock County tornado

The Hickory Grove Missionary Baptist Church, which dates back 143 years, was destroyed Wednesday night by an apparent tornado just months after completion of a $300,000 addition.

The American Red Cross has determined six homes were destroyed when the storm came through shortly before 11 p.m.

While the National Weather Service is gathering evidence, the debris field is consistent with tornadoes.

One of the Hickory Grove church members, Johnny Frank Baker, believed to be in his 60s, was killed when he and three other family members were blown out of their mobile home across from the church.

Lakesia Baker, Johnny Baker's daughter, and one of her two children were airlifted to an Atlanta hospital with serious injuries.

Hancock County deputy Larry Chapman said he found the elder Baker's body in the road under debris as they searched for victims in the dark of night.

Uprooted trees unearthed a vault in the graveyard that was littered with debris from the demolished sanctuary and social hall.

Pastor Michael Curry said he was thankful the church canceled the Wednesday night Bible study when severe weather threatened.

The congregation will meet tonight to plan their course of action to rebuild and find a temporary place to worship, he said.

Rescue crews had difficulty reaching the disaster scene because of so many downed trees, Chapman said.

David Hill had fallen asleep while watching storm reports on the couch of his newly built log cabin on Shoals Road near the church.

When he awoke to breaking clash and crashing trees he screamed for his wife and her 6-year-old child who were already asleep upstairs.

The family escaped with only minor scratches and cuts as the storm shifted their two-story home about 10 feet off its foundation.

Hill's wife's aunt's new log cabin under construction next door was also destroyed in the storm.

The American Red Cross is assisting families displaced by the storm and will have counselors on hand for the Baker family and their neighbors, said Ryan Logan of the Central Georgia chapter.

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