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UPDATED: Lightning claims a life, injures two on Beach

Names of victims released

July 22, 2014
By BOB PETCHER (rpetcher@breezenewspapers.com) , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

UPDATE

Lightning strikes during a rain storm on Fort Myers Beach proved deadly on Tuesday, July 22 afternoon, as three people were reportedly struck, one fatally.

At 2:11 pm, Lee County Sheriff's Office deputies responded to assist Lee County EMS and the Fort Myers Beach Fire and Rescue after the strike, which was located on the shoreline near Beach Access 33 at the 1600 block of Estero Boulevard.

Article Photos

The body of the deceased was reportedly placed into the van of the medical examiner at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

According to the police report, all three victims were from Lehigh Acres. Scott Wilcox, age 41, died on site. Zac Latawiec, age 14, and Chelsea Gill, age 16, were both transported to a local hospital for treatment.

Prior the police report, Town of Fort Myers Beach Vice Mayor Dan Andre heard about the unfortunate incident from an unnamed businessperson whose store is located in the area. Andre called Town Manager Don Stilwell to inform the rest of the Beach Council.

"My understanding is (the deceased) suffered cardiac arrest and two were hospitalized. One (of the hospitalized was a female that was either an older teenager or in her 20s who was pretty coherent when they carried her off in a stretcher. The other gentlemen was unconscious when they took him off on a stretcher," Andre said.

The storm came swift at roughly 2:10 p.m. and was gone just over one hour later. Andre heard a report that there were 47 lightning strikes in the area during a 15-minute timeframe.

Andre does not remember a lightning fatality since moving to the Beach, but said Public Safety Committee member Al Durrett told him something similar happened roughly 15 years ago.

"This is very tragic," Andre said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families."

Lightning safety to be discussed

The Town Public Safety Committee has been looking into the viability and cost of a lightning warning system to be placed on the Beach.

"The committee has received a couple of bids on lightning detection systems so far," said Andre.

Back in October 2013, officials of Thor Guard, Inc., a lightning prediction and warning systems company, made a presentation at a Public Safety Committee meeting. Durrett asked the officials to speak as he is investigating lightning measures at Fish Tale Marina.

Thor Guard President Bob Dugan calls his company unique because it offers a prediction system versus a detection system. It features base systems and horns to warn when lightning is about to strike.

"Basically, what Thor Guards does is analyze the earth's micro-static field," Dugan said then. "A lightning prediction system gives you maybe 10-12 minutes advanced warning that (the area is) about to be hit by lightning. Through all those years that we've scheduled research and development, we know when certain things are going to happen. It gives people the time to seek the appropriate shelter."

Dugan explained the prediction process and stated the accuracy results. His company has installed a system on Marco Island and has systems at Southwest Florida International Airport, Naples Airport, federal law enforcement training fields and in local communities in Bonita Springs, Sanibel and many Collier County parks.

"We are better than 97 percent accurate," he said.

It was stated the Beach would require three base systems and 12 remote horns (each heard up to 700 yards away) for a cost estimate of $99,000. Durrett spoke to officials at the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District about monitoring the system. There could be a collaborated effort between Beach Fire and the Town of Fort Myers Beach in cost and maintenance as well.

ORIGINAL REPORT

Lightning strikes during a rain storm on Fort Myers Beach proved deadly on Tuesday afternoon, as three people were reportedly struck, one fatally.

Town of Fort Myers Beach Vice Mayor Dan Andre heard about the unfortunate incident, which took place on the beachfront at the 1600 block of Estero Boulevard, from an unnamed businessperson whose store is located in the area. Andre called Town Manager Don Stilwell to inform the rest of the Beach Council.

"My understanding is (the deceased) suffered cardiac arrest and two were hospitalized. One (of the hospitalized was a female that was either an older teenager or in her 20s who was pretty coherent when they carried her off in a stretcher. The other gentlemen was unconscious when they took him off on a stretcher," Andre said.

The storm came swift at roughly 2:15 p.m. and was gone just over one hour later. Andre heard a report that there were 47 lightning strikes in the area during a 15-minute timeframe.

The Town Public Safety Committee has been looking into the viability and cost of a lightning warning system to be placed on the Beach.

"The committee has received a couple of bids on lightning detection systems so far," said Andre.

Andre does not remember a lightning fatality since moving to the Beach, but said Public Safety Committee member Al Durrett told him something similar happened roughly 15 years ago.

"This is very tragic," Andre said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families."

 
 

 

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