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Woman sues shelter company after being trapped for days

EDMOND, Okla. – Two years ago on a Friday night tornado sirens sent Debbie Hite running for her storm shelter.

Hite said, “There was a really loud clap of thunder that I thought was something else, so I shut the door.”

Little did this Edmond woman know, she would be trapped for more than 56 hours in her storm shelter.

We interviewed her when it happened.

“This is the pull that I was supposed to pull down that wouldn’t move for me. I had several panic times.  One when I realized I wasn’t getting out ’till somebody found me.”

When she didn’t show up for work Monday morning,  co-workers became concerned and Debbie was found.

Hite said, “It was just such a relief and I celebrated with tears.”

Now 2 years later,  she is suing the FlatSafe Tornado Shelters.

FlatSafe is the company that made her safe room.

Attorney Mason Johnston from Akins and Markhoff said the case was filed in September and is currently in litigation.

“There should have been some type of written instructions on the inside of the shelter.” said Johnston. “Also there was a defect in the fail safe mechanism causing it to not function like it should.”

For Debbie it’s been life changing.

“I am very different. I’m trying to find my way back to the Debbie I was before this,  that wasn’t afraid.”

Debbie says the dark, cold and seemingly endless days she spent down in her shelter had her mind spinning in so many different directions.

She went from survival to surrender.

“I realized I really could die down here. Then you go through your whole life, what haven’t I done that I wished I did.” said Hite. “What’s it going to be like if my children find me and so I spent some time thinking how could I make that less traumatic. So I remember taking one of the bolts and scratching messages in the walls to them.”

She was unsuccessful in trying to leave a message by using the bolts.

“So I’d stripped the carpet off that had been around the steps and I took the staples out that had attached them.  And I had fake tips on with bright pink nail polish and I pulled all my nail tips off and I was able to create this mosaic to say I love you.  Just in case – and it gave me something to do and it let them know that it was OK.”

Two years ago, Jerry Wirtz from FlatSafe said he was not sure what happened.

“She said she used the shelter properly.” said Wirtz. “It still functions properly, still opens and closes. At this point, we’re not sure, she’s not sure.”

Debbie is now working to get her life back and also working to protect others.

“All I know is that I hope this doesn’t happen to someone else.”