A Tybee Island swimmer died after being struck by lightning Saturday. The 15-year-old girl was visiting from Alabama and had been swimming in the waters surrounding Georgia’s Tybee Island when lightning struck and killed her over the weekend.
Tybee Island Police Department responded to the scene, after receiving numerous 911 calls, people claiming that a female had been struck while swimming in the ocean near 17th Street. One caller who spoke with dispatchers said at the time of the call that lifeguards were attending to the girl.
Both Tybee Island Police and the Fire Department were dispatched to the beach, and upon arrival, the 15-year-old Alabama girl was undergoing CPR having been removed from the beach. The girl was in critical condition.
According to a Facebook post by Tybee Island Police Department, “after learning that there would be an extended wait for Emergency Medical personnel to arrive, the Tybee Island Police Department dispatch center requested a helicopter to respond in order transport the victim to an area hospital.” The girl was pronounced dead at the hospital, after “the patient was turned over into the care of Emergency Medical personnel.”
The girl’s family told detectives that she was 15 years old and had been visiting Tybee Island from Alabama. In the statement, the police department wrote that “the men and women of the City of Tybee Island are deeply saddened by the loss of this young woman and our hearts remain with her family and friends.”
The Facebook post received over 1,500 responses and hundreds of comments from families who were impacted by the tragic story. One woman wrote that “this is so heartbreaking. I have teenagers and we were there 9 days before last. Easily could have been one of my own. I will be praying for this young lady’s family.”
The commenters shared apologies for the family’s loss. The incident is an incredibly rare weather incident, especially in the United States. Only two people have died from lightning strikes so far this year.
According to Sunny Ray, who witnessed the events, “I was on my patio when this happened and the lifeguards’ response time was incredible. They were on the scene within 15 seconds of the lightning strike. Prayers to everyone involved.”
Another witness, Cindy Banister Heiman, wrote that “my family was on the beach at that time and not very far from this location … my family will always remember this family and their terrible loss.” Lightning strikes are incredibly rare, and yet both recorded deaths this year happened in the same week.
On Wednesday, Michael Ward, 70, died on a golf course in Burlington County, New Jersey. According to the CDC, lighting is one of the leading causes of weather-related deaths, however, the likelihood of being struck in a given year is around 1 in 500,000.
There were 17 fatalities due to lightning strikes in the United States last year, and the latest instance in Georgia was on July 3, 2020, when lightning struck a 9-year-old girl. According to the National Lightning Safety Council, Georgia is ranked eighth in the United States for lighting strikes from 2010 to 2019, with nine fatalities.
The highest-ranked state is Florida, which has had 47 fatalities from 2010 to 2019. To reduce the chances of being struck by lightning, the CDC recommends all individuals check weather forecasts before participating in outdoor activities, and to avoid water when amid a thunderstorm. Lighting can travel through the building’s plumbing, so it is recommended that people refrain from bathing, or having any other contact with water during storms.
The CDC also suggests staying indoors and keeping separate from large groups. It’s also important to avoid electronic equipment, corded phones, and windows, doors, porches, and concrete during severe storms. If caught outside during a storm, don’t lie flat on the ground. Instead, crouch down, making a ball-like shape with your head tucked and hands over your ears as to have minimal contact with the ground.