At a brief ceremony in the park’s office on June 13, Senate Joint Resolution commending him for his actions when an April 16 tornado hit the park. The resolution was presented by State Senator William M. Stanley Jr., 19th District – Glade Hill. Stanley introduced the resolution passed by both houses of the General Assembly April 27-28.
Josh Ellington receives commendation form Senator Bill Stanley
and Delegate James Edmunds
The resolution commends Ellington for “dedication to the safety of Staunton River State Park guests” as he took “decisive action that helped protect guests from harm or fatal injuries in the midst of a powerful tornado.”
Ellington was working in the park on the afternoon of April 16 when he received warning that a potential tornado was approximately 20 minutes from the park. He immediately canvassed the park’s campground and cabin areas and moved everyone to the visitor center for safety. While checking the boat ramp and the park’s shorelines for additional visitors Ellington was caught in the storm and its 120 mile per hour winds. He waited out the storm while lying on the floor of his truck as trees fell around and on the vehicle.
“Josh showed tremendous courage, putting the safety of his guests above his own,” said Sen. Stanley. “It is because of Josh’s quick thinking, unselfishness and heroic actions that no one was injured during this E2 tornado.”
After the storm passed Ellington elicited help from and organized about 100 search and rescue volunteers who were training in the park to search for potentially stranded or injured visitors. He then worked with outside volunteers to clear the park’s access road.
“Josh’s decisions and actions went well beyond the call of duty,” said David Johnson, director of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. “His actions since April 16 have continued to show his exceptional dedication to the park and his community.” Virginia State Parks are managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.
The tornado devastated more than 100 acres of the park, shutting down a number of the park’s trails. Ellington was instrumental in organizing a salvage logging operation that cleared the land at no cost to the state. He also organized several well-attended volunteer clean up days to help open the park in time to celebrate its 75th birthday in June.
Josh attributed his quick thinking and calm through the storm to all the training he has had throughout his career as a conservation officer. Josh also said that he hopes to begin work as soon as possible to get the park trails cleared.
Although the trails remain closed, all other facilities opened just a month after the event.