1 man seriously injured in what religious leader called ‘demonic storm’ that flattened their ‘Big Tent’

Religious group seeks donations to fix tent destroyed in New Ipswich storm.

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NEW IPSWICH, NH – Although it was initially reported that no one was seriously injured when a fast-moving storm violently took hold of a large tent in New Ipswich Sunday, a New Ipswich man actually suffered a serious head injury, his pastor said Monday.

Marcus Rautiola of New Ipswich was taken to Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough before emergency responders arrived to care for the injured. “He was hit pretty hard. They brought him to Peterborough,” his pastor Bob Hakala said Monday.

On Sunday, New Ipswich Deputy Fire Chief Gary Somero said his department responded to Paul Somero’s Locke Road property — where the tent revival had been taking place since Aug. 14 — for a report of a tent collapse and 20 injured people.

Somero said the strong winds in the storm caused the tent at the “Wake Up America” tent revival to collapse. Only four people were transported to the hospital and they had “relatively minor injuries,” Somero said on Sunday. One went to Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough, one went to Catholic Medical Center in Nashua and two went to UMass Medical Center in Leominster, Massachusetts. Several other people were injured, including two who refused to be taken to the hospital by ambulance, and are either self-treating or taking themselves in for medical care, he said. Injuries included bumps and bruises and one broken arm, Somero said.

Somero said the storm moving through town is believed to have caused the tent collapse. “All I know is that I was at home when the storm came through and it was big and it was fast and the lightning was fierce.”

Hakala is pastor of Christian Outreach Church in Rindge where Rautiola is a church elder, Hakala said. After Rautiola was brought to Monadnock Community Hospital he was taken to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Massachusetts.

“He’s got a fractured skull, eye socket, jaw and nose. Fortunately, at least, as far as they can tell none of the bones are displaced so they are not going to have to do surgery. There is some brain swelling, but it’s manageable with meds right now,” Hakala said.

He is speaking and is coherent and should make a full recovery, he said. “They think he is going to be fine.”

Hakala said he was visiting someone only a quarter of a mile away when the storm hit. And then after all of the emergency responders had cleared the scene he visited the site. “We came down afterward to see the carnage.”

“It had to be a microburst,” he said, saying he has never seen anything like it in all his 74 years, such as oak trees bent in half. “And I’ve never seen winds and rains of that magnitude around here.”

Hakala said based on the trauma sustained by Rautiola he was likely struck in the head by a pole or another heavy metal object.

“He got slammed really hard. It’s a miracle that he is the only one,” Hakala said. “We saw poles that went literally through the side of a metal truck. … Many people said they were lifted right off their feet and it lifted the tent.”

Fortunately, the day’s revival session had ended at 3 p.m. sharp and all of the attendees had left for the day. The only people left at the tent were revival team members who had just put all of the metal chairs away and were beginning to eat a late lunch when the storm swept in.

“The metal chairs would have been flying around,” if they had still been set up, Hakala said. “They were all put away, which is a blessing. … Something good out of what could have been a really, really serious disaster.” It is a miracle Rautiola was the only one seriously injured in the event and he is expected to make a full recovery, Hakala said.

An ambulance at the scene of a tent collapse in New Ipswich on Aug. 23, 2020. Photo/Meghan Pierce

Hakala said as a pastor he had his own flock to preach to on Sunday, otherwise, he might have been there. “I had gone earlier in the week to listen and observe and I was favorably impressed,” Hakala said. “Like any theologian, we don’t agree on everything, but who does.”

In a video posted to Facebook shortly after the tent collapsed, the man holding the tent revival, Danish evangelist Torben Søndergaard asked for prayers.

“This is crazy. I’ve never seen anything like this before,” he said in the video. “Pray for us. We need to see the power of God. We already knew we were in a war.”

Søndergaard said they had just finished a revival session and most of the people had left when the storm swept in. The only people in the tent were revival team members, he said.

“I never seen any wind like this. A wind just came and took everybody up,” he said in the video. “The tent and everybody just went out. … Everyone just got lifted up.”

Last Reformation team member Ever Calamaco also reflected on the experience: “It was so dark, so spiritual, the storm was not normal. It was not a normal storm,” he said in the video.

Looking around the scene Sunday afternoon, he Søndergaard added, “It’s almost like being in a war zone right now. … Everyone pray for us. Pray for us.”

Somero said several other area fire departments responded as well as multiple ambulance services.