Lightning Strike Kills SC Woman and Her Dogs
Norma Jean Fowler
January 25, 1966 - August 22, 2006
by: Steve Fowler - August 23, 2006
A 40-year-old woman, Norma Jean Fowler,
and four of her dogs were killed after lightning struck a tree in
the backyard of her Spartanburg County, South Carolina home. She
shared the house with her mother and daughter. (shown recently with
her daughter, Victoria, in the above photo)
Norma Jean (as her family called her)
went outside a little before 3 p.m. to care for her dogs just as
the early afternoon severe thunderstorm approached the area. The
family kept at least nine dogs in the backyard of their home in
Lyman, located at 102 Vernon Street. The four dogs which died were
chained to various objects under the tree. The dogs which survived
were puppies. They survived by huddling inside a plastic dog house
during the rain and thunder.
lightning struck the tallest tree in the backyard and apparently
traveled down the root system before reaching the dogs. Each dog
that was killed was under the tree and standing over the root system
as well as chained. The current traveling through the tree's roots
most likely caused the dogs to be killed. Norma Jean was thought
to be standing at the base of the tree touching one of the dogs.
She was found by her mother lying across one of the dogs nearest
the tree base. Each dog that died was chained to a different tree.
The lightning current might have traveled through Norma Jeans arms
and legs to reach the dog she was touching.
of the four dogs were killed near the base of the tree and near
Norma Jean. The other two dogs were at least 25 feet from the base
of the tree. This indicated the extreme energy of the lightning
bolt and how far it reached out through the tree roots. The distance
from each of the two dogs near the outside of the tree root system
was over 50 feet.
Customers and employees of a local
restaurant ( Gail's) located near the home heard the thunderclap
that followed the fatal lighting strike. It was describe as "three
big, loud booms." None of them could have possibly imagined
what had just happened. The tree which was struck is shown in the
photo behind Gail's Restaurant.
Jean's mother found her on the ground badly burned and in cardiac
arrest. She receive burns to her fingers trying to put out the fire
that was still burning Norma Jean's shirt.
Emergency responders performed CPR
on Norma Jean for five to ten minutes while waiting on an ambulance,
but it was not enough to save her. She most likely received such
a severe shock that CPR would not have been effective under any
Vicky Fowler, Norma Jeans sister, said
she lost her life trying to care for the animals that she loved.
Norma Jean died exactly 9 years to the day after her bother died
by being struck by a train under suspicious circumstances.
Up to 100 people a year in the USA
lose their lives to lightning. We have written many articles on
lightning victims. Visit our web page on lightning for more information:
very odd twist of fate to this story may be in another lightning
strike nearwhere Norma Jean waskilled. In a small community called
Fairmont on August 11, 1895, members of the Fowler family were killed
in a lightning strike. Fairmont as a textile village is long gone.
But the memory still exists there of the summer night that devastated
the small community. The tragedy so affected the little village
that they built a small monument to the two victims who dies quickly.
Their names were Sarah and William Fowler - my great aunt and
Today, the grave is in disrepair at
the old Methodist Church in Fairmont. It rests besides the graves
of some of the textile magnates of that era - also in disrepair.
The local children for many years have told stories of the dead
children haunting the grave site. Locals walk around the grave and
say that you can still hear them call out.