Onalaska residents killed in tornado identified as TDCJ staffers; victim's mother hospitalized

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“Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone impacted by this tragic act of nature,” TDCJ Excutive Director Bryan Collier says.

ONALASKA, Texas — TDCJ employees killed in tornado that devastated southeast Texas

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has identified two employees killed during a tornado that swept through Polk County Wednesday night, injuring several others and destroying dozens of homes.

Taylor Holbert 29, and Brooke Ivey, 27, were both Onalaska residents employed by the Texas prison system. 

Holbert’s mother, who is also a TDJC employee, and another family member have been hospitalized with serious injuries.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone impacted by this tragic act of nature,” said Executive Director of TDCJ Bryan Collier said. “To lose two valued employees so young is especially difficult. TDCJ is a family. We will all stand with the Holbert and Ivey families in this trying time.“

Holbert had worked as an industrial specialist with the Manufacturing, Agribusiness and Logistic Division for the past three years.

Ivey, who had been with TDCJ for more than six years, was a contracts specialist in the Contracts and Procurement Division.

In total, three people have been reported dead following the tornado. The third person’s identity has not been shared.

There are at least another 6 TDCJ employee families who are homeless as a result of the destruction and at least another 30 employees who suffered damage as a result of the storm. 

Agency leadership is exploring all options to help provide for employees in need.

More than 50 community work squad members from TDCJ are responding to four neighborhoods to aid in the cleanup and recovery effort, the agency said.

In addition, there are 31 TDCJ staff and 5 K-9’s now assisting with search and rescue and door to door recovery efforts in Polk County.

RELATED: Deaths of two longtime TDCJ employees linked to coronavirus


Polk County emergency management officials continued damage assessment and recovery efforts Thursday after a deadly tornado ripped through the area.

The severe weather, which was first reported about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, killed a least three people and injured about 33 others in Polk County alone. 

At least 291 homes were impacted and 46 others were destroyed, Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy confirmed.