Helmets Save Lives During Tornadoes, Scientists Say

Image Credit: Stewart Family

As families in Alabama come together to remember the nearly 250 people killed one year ago today in devastating tornadoes, authorities were begging residents to pay close attention to the story of 8-year-old Noah Stewart.

"He was caught up as high as a power pole … just being spun around and then he came down and hit the ground" said Noah's mother, Lisa Stewart.

Noah is alive today because of a bicycle helmet his mother gave him to put on his head.

"It felt like I went head-first into the concrete. I think it actually just broke in pieces," Noah Stewart told ABC News. "I think I just went straight down and just hit my head and it completely broke."

Today, the Centers for Disease Control reports that many of those who were killed did exactly what they should. They ran to basements, bathrooms and other safe places. There was plenty of warning, but none of this was enough.

Scientists at the University of Alabama found that in one county they studied at least half of those killed died from head injuries that could have been prevented.

"If there is a severe weather alert, protect your head," Russ Fine, an injury epidemiologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told ABC News, "whether it's a hard hat from a construction site, a football helmet, a motorcycle helmet [or] a bicycle helmet."

In Joplin, Mo., it was a bicycle helmet that saved the life of Augie Gonzales. Of all things, it was a toilet that hit him in the head. Fortunately, he was uninjured.

"I know the helmet saved my son," said his mother, Natalie Gonzales.