TORONTO -- In a small Manitoba town where everyone knows everyone, Shayna Barnesky and Carter Tilbury had been a part of each other’s lives since elementary school.

It wasn’t until high school that the two started dating. But last Friday, the couple’s love story was cut short.

They were killed while driving through the Rural Municipality of Pipestone after a sudden tornado ripped through the area, throwing them from their vehicle — and throwing their hometown of Melita into mourning.

Friends say the 18-year-olds were similar: kind and caring, both athletes, both from families with deep roots in their town.

“They were a great couple of kids,” Melita Mayor Bill Holden told CTV News. “I don’t want to say they were two of the nicest kids in town, but they were, actually. They were both quiet and they were real nice kids. It’s going to be tough on the families.”

Melita has a population of just a little over a thousand, and is located only 35 kilometres from the U.S. border. Since Friday’s tragedy, the community has been changed.

“You can feel it in the air today,” Anglican Priest Matt Koovisk said. “It’s a bit of a cloudy day, and people are just feeling […] sad and sombre at what happened.”

No one knows if the couple saw the tornado, which witnesses describe as explosive, when it appeared suddenly from a small, intense thunderstorm Friday night.

Police say Tilbury’s truck was found more than a kilometre from the highway. The teens were discovered in a field, pulled from the vehicle by the force of the tornado.

They were pronounced dead at the scene.

Another man was found trapped in his car, which was flipped onto downed power lines. The 54-year-old, who is from the Sioux Valley Dakota First Nation, suffered serious injuries, and is now recovering in hospital.

With wind speeds of up to 190 kilometres per hour, the EF-2 tornado cut a narrow, but devastating, path of destruction. Apart from throwing the two vehicles, it hit a farm, smashing more than a dozen grain bins. A thick windbreak of spruce trees was also broken like matchsticks by the winds.

“It’s just devastating. It just doesn’t even look like the same place anymore,” said Shirley Rudneski, a friend of the man whose farmland was destroyed.

The damage underscores how a tornado can change everything in an instant, cutting down trees that spent years growing -- and cutting short human lives.

With files from Writer Ben Cousins