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Pennsylvania man Killed by Direct Lightning Strike


June 21, 2007

A substitute teacher at Mechanicsburg Area High School was struck by lightning shortly after a severe thunderstorm Tuesday evening.

Shawn Kelly, 24, had just stepped out the door of his parent's Benyou Lane home in Fairview Township, when he was struck in the shoulder by a lightning bolt, just before 6:30 p.m. The strike was so powerful that it went through his feet and blew a hole into the concrete driveway. The blast threw Shawn into his father, who was knocked to the ground but not injured.

Kelly was pronounced dead at 6:20 a.m. Wednesday at Hershey Medical Center after doctors could not stabilize his heard, said Dauphin County Coroner Dr. Graham Hetrick.

Katie Kelly said that her brother, Shawn has noticed a downed tree in the neighbor's front yard and was going to help out, when he was struck. "It was barely even raining. They thought the storm was over," she said.

Lightning can strike for 10 miles, carrying a wallop of several hundred million volts, said John Jensenius, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service and a lightning expert with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. If you can hear thunder, there's still lightning around, he said.

"A lot of people get struck hen they think the storm has passed," he said.

Shawn Kelly's death was rare because he was directly hit. Only ten percent of Lighting strike victims receive a direct hit, rather than indirect contact with the ground or another object which is more common.

"It was bad. The lightning was just incredible. It was constantly flashing. I felt several lightning strikes within a few hundred yards while we were out clearing roads and helping other people," said Bill Carlisle, fire chief in Fairview Township.

Carlisle was helping clean up downed trees when the emergency call came in. He said he remembers how the lightning smashed the concrete driveway into pieces and left smoldering burn marks on Shawn Kelly's clothing.

Lightning killed 12 people in Pennsylvania between 1995 and 2004, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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