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updated: 5/22/2013 9:01 AM

Schaumburg trustee tells of Oklahoma tornado experience

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  • Schaumburg Trustee Frank Kozak, right, with his son Steve, from an Oklahoma hospital room tells how a water heater and wall fell on top of him, possibly saving his life.

      Schaumburg Trustee Frank Kozak, right, with his son Steve, from an Oklahoma hospital room tells how a water heater and wall fell on top of him, possibly saving his life.
    Courtesy of Steve Kozak

  • Frank Kozak

      Frank Kozak

  • Video: View of the scene with water heater

  • Video: Frank Kozak tells of surviving tornado

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Huddled in a closet as the house around them was being disintegrated by Monday's massive tornado in Oklahoma, Schaumburg Village Trustee Frank Kozak and his wife, Char, think the water heater that fell on them may be the only reason they survived.

"I just thank God that we're alive," Frank Kozak said in a video from the hospital room where he and his wife were staying Tuesday. "It's an experience I wouldn't want anybody else to go through."

The Kozaks were visiting members of Char's family in the Oklahoma City area and were by themselves in her brother's house Monday when the tornado struck.

"It came so quickly. ... I grabbed on to my wife. I said, 'Get down on the floor.' We got down on the floor," Kozak said. "We were in the hallway room. Next thing I know the roof blew off, we got hit by a water heater; it fell on top of us. The wall came down on top of us. I guess that's what saved us."

Kozak said there was nothing left of the house except what they were covered with.

"They went to a center closet, and my father was covering my mother," said their son, Steve Kozak, who talked to his parents afterward. "I believe the hot water heater landed on my father's back and the weight of that might have helped keep him down.

"My uncle said, 'I don't know how they rode this out or how they're still alive.'"

Also gone were the four race cars and trailers the Oklahoma family kept as hobbies. The Kozaks' new SUV was missing until Tuesday morning, when it was discovered in a tree a few blocks away.

Both of the Kozaks were pretty banged up, but their injuries were not life-threatening, said their son, who drove through the night with his nephew and a friend to be with them in the hospital.

Char Kozak had lacerations on her head that were closed with staples and an arm injury from debris that required surgery Tuesday.

"Everything went well," Steve Kozak reported after his mother's surgery. "Now it's just a matter of time."

Frank Kozak, also bloodied, suspected he might have broken a rib because of the pain he was experiencing from breathing. But doctors confirmed he was only sore, his son said.

Both of the injured Kozaks hope to be discharged Friday and head home soon after.
All the members of Char Kozak's family in Oklahoma, including her mother, were OK.

"I feel sorry for those who were lost," Frank Kozak said. "I'm happy for those who made it through. I feel sorry for the state, that they had to go through something like this."

Carmen Selke, secretary to Schaumburg Village President Mayor Al Larson, said she briefly spoke with Frank Kozak by phone, saying he was unusually reserved and brief.

"For Frank, that's a sign that he was very upset," Selke said.

* ABC 7 Chicago contributed to this report.

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