‘She was a blessing’: Tornado kills Georgia woman who saved twin’s life

This was Deanna Zambrano's favorite picture of herself, according to her grandmother. Zambrano died Sunday when a tornado destroyed her Murray County home. (Family photo)
This was Deanna Zambrano's favorite picture of herself, according to her grandmother. Zambrano died Sunday when a tornado destroyed her Murray County home. (Family photo)

From a young age, twins Deanna and Breanna Zambrano were taught to look out for each other. As 20-year-olds, the two remained protective of each other, their grandmother said.

Sunday night, the twins were alone when a powerful tornado approached their North Georgia mobile home. Deanna protected her sister, wrapping her arms around her to shield her, the family said.

Breanna survived the storm, which destroyed the family’s home. But Deanna did not.

Deanna Zambrano was one of seven killed late Sunday in Murray County. An eighth person died in Bartow County in the early-morning hours Monday. The National Weather Service has said more than 20 tornadoes rolled through Georgia, leaving behind paths of destruction.

» RELATED: 8 killed as tornadoes slam Georgia

» ALSO: 3 members of one family killed in Murray County

On Thursday, Shelia Peabody told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the family is devastated by Deanna’s death. The twins planned to celebrate their 21st birthdays on April 22.

“She was the one that made everyone laugh. She was the comedian,” Peabody said. “She was a blessing.”

A 2017 graduate of North Murray High School, Deanna worked at Burger King and was engaged to her boyfriend of five years, her grandmother said.

April 13, 2020 Chatsworth: Survivors and family friends dig through the remains of Deer Park trailer park after a deadly tornado killed at least 7 in Murray County on Monday, April 12, 2020, in Chatsworth. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)
April 13, 2020 Chatsworth: Survivors and family friends dig through the remains of Deer Park trailer park after a deadly tornado killed at least 7 in Murray County on Monday, April 12, 2020, in Chatsworth. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Despite their grief, Deanna’s grandmother, mother and younger sister are focusing now on Breanna, who was seriously injured. Breanna, who has autism, has already undergone six surgeries at Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

“Breanna is doing great,” Peabody said Thursday afternoon. “She’s a survivor. We’ve still got her, so that’s a blessing.”

Because of restrictions in place amid the coronavirus pandemic, the family has been unable to see Breanna in the hospital. But she spoke with her mother by phone earlier Thursday. Breanna even joked that she was hungry and had only been given applesauce, her grandmother said.

But the family has not yet told Breanna about her sister’s death. Peabody is hopeful Breanna’s mother will be able to do that in person.

In the meantime, the family is focused on Breanna’s recovery, which is expected to take several months. Peabody says the family has been told it will be three to four months before Breanna is able to walk again.

A memorial for Deanna will be held at a later date. Shawn Chapman Funeral Home in Chatsworth is in charge of arrangements.

Among others killed in Murray were three members of one family, according to county Coroner Jason Gibson. Wilber Brookshire, 79, and Myrtle Brookshire, 75, were killed along with their son, Wilber Brookshire Jr., 48. A graveside service is planned for the three Friday afternoon.

Murray County Coroner Jason Gibson said the victims were all adults who lived in at least three different mobile homes. The victims have not been identified.