Two Teenagers Found Dead, Killed by Lightning Strike

By Zachary Stieber

Two Pennsylvania teenagers, both recent high school graduates, were killed by a lightning strike while next to a lake on June.

The strike hit them just before 4 p.m. at Mammoth Park in Mt. Pleasant Township, reported TribLIVE. They have been identified as Brendan McGowan and Kaitlyn Rosensteel, both 18.

The pair was pronounced dead about an hour after the strike.

Witnesses told the authorities that they heard a loud crack before a flash of light, reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. They then saw the man and woman underneath a large tree that had splintered.

The teens were fishing, a witness said, reported WPXI.

The strike happened amid a thunderstorm that moved through Westmoreland County.

“It was a generic-looking thunderstorm,” said Matthew Kramar, a weather service meteorologist. “Any thunderstorm can be very dangerous because of lightning. It doesn’t have to be a severe thunderstorm.”

McGowan and Rosensteel are believed to be killed by lightning; an official confirmation is pending an autopsy. The Westmoreland County Coroner’s Office said their injuries were “consistent with being struck by lightning,” reported WPXI.

McGowan had recently graduated from Greensburg Central Catholic High School. Rosensteel had also studied there but transferred to Ringgold High School, where she graduated before signing to study and play soccer at West Virginia Wesleyan College.

At least two other people have been killed by lightning in the United States this year.

A motorcyclist riding in Florida earlier this month was struck by lightning and killed. He was later identified as North Carolina resident Benjamin Austin Lee.

A family friend, Kimberly Crawford Schultz, confirmed Lee’s identity on a GoFundMe fundraising page for the victim’s family.

“With his unexpected passing, Austin leaves behind a loving family. They are all incredible individuals who deserve the very best care, love, and support in order to get through this devastating time,” she wrote.

“To those who knew him, knew Austin was an amazing person. He was adventurous and could not wait to ‘See the World.’ He was a generous, kind, hard-working man that had an infectious personality and was just someone that you couldn’t help but want to be around! He would share everything he had with you—his time, his possessions, his love, and his support. Heaven has truly gained an Angel!” she added.

Another man was killed on May 3 while camping in Texas.

(National Weather Service)

According to the National Weather Service, there is an average of 43 reported lightning fatalities per year, although the average has dipped in recent years. Forty were killed in 2016 but every other year since 2010 has averaged below 30.

About 10 percent of people who are struck by lightning are killed but the other 90 percent are left with various degrees of disability.

“Lightning is a major cause of storm-related deaths in the U.S. A lightning strike can result in a cardiac arrest (heart stopping) at the time of the injury, although some victims may appear to have a delayed death a few days later if they are resuscitated but have suffered irreversible brain damage,” the agency stated.