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Kentucky Teenager Killed by Lightning While Horseback Riding


August 8, 2005

Simpsonsville, Ky. A 16-year-old teenager is dead, the victim of a lightning bolt Sunday afternoon, in the Shelby County community of Simpsonville.

Joshua Lee Smith, and the horse he was riding were both killed, and the victim's brother-in-law was knocked from the horse he was riding but not injured, Shelby County Deputy Coroner Jeff Ivers said.

"It was right at the edge of a wooded area off U.S. 60," Ivers said. The two riders were approaching a clearing occupied by power lines, but the lightning struck before they crossed the clearing.

Smith loved almost any outdoor activity. On Sunday afternoon, he was doing one of the things he loved most -- horseback riding along a trail with his brother-in-law Chris Clark. Shelby County Deputy Coroner Don Waterfill says, "They saw the storm approaching ... they tried to beat it to get into cover... and he says all he heard there was a loud noise. He was knocked out; his horse was knocked down. When he came to he said his horse was staggering around. He looked over and said, 'Josh you've got to get up,' and Josh said 'I'm trying.'

But Josh couldn't get up. He'd taken what medical experts believe might have been a direct lightning strike -- A shock so powerful, his heartbeat was disrupted. "Preliminarily, we found his hat. It had a large hole in the upper top left, which we suspect that's where the strike hit," Waterfill says.

The average lightning strike is charged with a billion volts, and up to 200 thousand amps -- enough energy to power a 100 watt lightbulb for three months straight. Waterfill says the shock was enough to kill Josh and his horse --the official cause of death ruled as sudden heart death. "There was nothing that could have been done even if EMS had been on the scene when it occurred," Waterfill says.

Smith would have turned 17 years old in a couple of weeks and had been living in Taylorsville with a guardian but had been staying with his sister in Simpsonville for the summer, Ivers said. The brother-in-law refused medical treatment but was taken to a hospital later for examination, he added.








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