VENUS, Florida - Heather Town made the ultimate sacrifice a parent can make -- she gave up her own life for her little girl.
The mother-of-three was found deep in the woods still clutching her 3-year-old daughter after the two of them were tossed from their mobile home for nearly 200 yards during a tornado on Sunday.
The child's cries led rescuers to them.
"I am so proud of my daughter," said Heather's father, Elmer Town. "I can picture her holding that little girl of hers. She died for her."
The child, Ann Marie, was held so tightly that her ribs are broken, along with her pelvis. Heather held on until the very end.
Crystal Walker, Town's sister, sifted through the rubble Monday, holding back tears. "I just can't," she said. "I just can't believe it. She's gone."
Kim Bass lives across the street and held Ann Marie when the child was rescued. "She cried and closed her eyes, too afraid to open them again."
Paramedics tried desperately to save Heather, but it was too late.
Both mother and child were found covered in barbed wire and debris after being thrown into the woods behind their mobile home.
"It really was like a freight train. Complete and utter devastation. This the worst thing to ever happen to our community," Bass said.
Ann Marie is now at Tampa General Hospital recovering while her family makes funeral arrangements. Doctors say she has a shattered pelvis, broken ribs, a bruised lung, and cuts all over her body.
Three little girls are now without their mother after her heroic actions. Ann Marie, Amber, and Angelica were often seen with their mother walking around the neighborhood. "She loved being a mother," said Bass. "Those kids were her life."
If you would like to help the children, please make a donation in care of "the Town Children Account" at any TD Bank in the Bay area. The account number is 4265072739. You can call the bank at 863-471-1553 for details.