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Lightning strike kills mom, injures child and dog in Florida

Jose A. Bernat Bacete

(WINTER SPRINGS, Fla.) -- A Florida woman was killed Thursday by lightning that also struck her child and a dog, authorities said.

The incident occurred on Thursday afternoon in Winter Springs, a small city in central Florida's Seminole County, some 15 miles north of Orlando. The Winter Springs Police Department said it received multiple reports of people possibly being struck by lightning near Trotwood Park at about 2:20 p.m. local time and deployed officers to the scene. Lightning appeared to have "hit a nearby tree, energizing the area and striking the victims," police said.

The Seminole County Fire Department also responded and provided immediate lifesaving aid to the victims on site. A woman and her child were subsequently transported to area hospitals for treatment, where the mother died, according to police.

"The child and K9 have been seen by medical professionals and are doing fine," the Winter Springs Police Department said in a press release Thursday. "We are not releasing the names so the family may grieve from this unfortunate event."

Seminole County Public Schools confirmed that the victims included a Keeth Elementary School student and their parent.

"SCPS and Keeth Elementary School remain committed to the safety and security of all students and will continue to take safety precautions in the event of inclement weather," the school district said in a statement via social media on Thursday. "Additional counselors will be on campus to support students and/or staff impacted by this event."

Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma said it was "a tragic day in the City of Winter Springs and the entire Seminole County Community."

"Please say a prayer for the family who has lost a mother, and all of those involved and affected by today's storm," Lemma said in a statement via social media on Thursday. "Our team responded to assist the City and family -- and remains ready to support the school district and community with any needs."

The death brings the total number of lightning-related fatalities in the United States so far this year to 14. Based on the past decade, an average of 18 lightning deaths occur in the country by mid-August, according to data compiled by John Jensenius, a meteorologist with the National Lightning Safety Council who retired from the National Weather Service in 2019 after more than 41 years with the agency.

Lightning is a major cause of storm-related deaths in the U.S. A lightning strike can result in cardiac arrest, though only about 10% of victims are killed, according to the National Weather Service.

Nevertheless, lightning strikes can leave a person with various degrees of disability and many long-term health problems, including muscle soreness, headaches, cognitive problems and nausea.

The odds of being struck by lightning in your lifetime are 1 in 15,300, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Severe Storms Laboratory.

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