Red Truck Driver From Viral Tornado Video Identified as 16-Year-Old Texas High Schooler

by Suzanne Halliburton
Jason Weingart/Future Publishing via Getty Images

Remember that amazing video of a tornado spinning a red pickup truck on its side only to flip it back upright, allowing the driver to hustle away?

We finally know who was driving the truck. And his story is a really cool one. Call it, Texas strong teenager, fueled by Whataburger, wins his fight against an EF2 tornado. The funnel was one of five that brutalized Central Texas earlier this week.

The 4-1-1 On Tornado Video — Who Drove The Red Truck?

  • Riley Leon, a 16-year-old, was on his way home from a job interview.
  • Funnel pushed over his truck and spun it. But miraculously, the tornado flipped it upright.
  • Leon suffered a cut on his arm. Winds blew out the windows in his Chevy and battered the sides of it.
  • Friends now call him “Tornado Boy.”

Riley Leon, the 16-year-old from Austin, acknowledged that he knew the weather was bad and getting worse, Monday afternoon. But he had a job interview with Whataburger that he didn’t want to miss. Coming back from the interview in Elgin, Leon and his old, red Chevy Silverado encountered a funnel cloud threading its way through the Texas countryside. The tornado was snapping electrical lines as a debris field swirled around it. And then it crossed Highway 290, a main road into Austin.

The tornado pushed over the 6500-pound truck like it was an electric scooter. Leon found himself sideways in the cab doing a slow spin, only to experience the tornado flip the truck back upright. What does one do in such a situation? Floor it!

Here’s the reminder of what happened. Brian Emfinger, an enterprising storm chaser, captured the moment on video and posted it to social media. Emfinger added: “Omg… just going thru my video. This is a story about a red truck and a tornado…. I CANNOT believe they drove away like that.”

Leon Has New Nickname — Tornado Boy

Leon said the incident “happened in the blink of an eye.”

“I wasn’t scared that much, but it was a shocking moment for me,” Leon told told KVUE, a TV station in Austin

He added: “I just drove off … and I was like ‘should I drive home or should I not?’” 

Leon pulled over to see what happened to his 18-year-old truck, which has been in his family for more than a decade. There were dents all over it and some of the windows blew out on impact. By the time he got back home, his family had seen the video. It quickly went viral. Three days later, the video is closing in on 7 million views.

Leon told Fox 7 in Austin: “I’m speechless. I’m speechless seeing how my truck got thrown like paper.”

He also returned to school. And teachers played the video again. His friends also gave him a new nickname — “Tornado Boy.”

Oh, and Leon got the job at Whataburger. He starts Monday. He told KVUE that several dealerships have reached out to him about his truck. Maybe he’ll have a new ride (or a fixed truck) in time to start his new job at Whataburger, a beloved Texas institution.

He said he was “thankful for God for giving me another chance at this life.”