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17 Year Old Student Killed by Lightning
August 29, 2007
by Steve Fowler

SPARTANBURG, S.C. 3:30 p.m. -- A small Christian school lost its student body president when he was tragically killed and his soccer coach was injured by a lightning strike at the school campus on Wednesday afternoon.

Alex Holbein was pronounced dead at Spartanburg Regional Medical Center just after 4 p.m. He was the victim of a direct hit by lightning. The coroner said that the bolt entered his head and exited his feet. He was motionless after the strike according to witnesses. Several other students were knocked to the ground but only Holbein and the coach were hurt.

Thursday would have been Holbein's 18th birthday. He was a senior at at Oakbrook Preparatory School, located at 190 Lincoln School Road in Spartanburg.

Holbeinís fellow student Thomas Renfrow said. "I canít believe it, I don't think itís sunk in yet. Itís unbelievable, just happened so fast,Ē

Oakbrook Preparatory School Director Steve Smith said, "Alex is a tremendous influence on all our lives,Ē . ďWeíre going to miss his physical presence, but his legacy we're going to carry forward."

Holbein and his coach, Tim Blakeney were on the field in a soccer drill when there was a sudden, extremely loud clap of thunder just after 3:30 p.m.

The first call to 911 came in at 3:38 p.m - then followed by many calls from the scene.

Thunderstorms were moving through the area at that time, but there were no severe weather warnings and there were not a large number of lightning strikes to ground.

Blakeney is in fair condition in Spartanburg Regional Medical Center. He teaches history and government at Oakbrook. He also coaches middle school basketball.

By 5:30 p.m., there was a group gathered at Spartanburg Community Church for a prayer vigil for Holbein and Blakeney.

Oakbrook is an independent, private Christian school that has approximately 450 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

In the United States, an average of 66 people are killed each year by lightning. In 2004, there were 32 deaths attributed to lightning, down from 44 thanks in part to increased education and safety. In 2005, there were 43 deaths confirmed deaths and 172 confirmed injuries.

On August 22, 2006, Norma Jean Fowler was killed by lightning less than 3 miles from Oakbrook School.

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:

One very odd twist of fate to this story may be in another lightning strike near where Norma Jean was killed. 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 uncle.

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.


Many times sports participants are hurt during storms. More care should be taken for the safety of students in dangerous weather. If it too hot, if it is too stormy play should be suspended. Some companies make devices to warn coaches of impending lightning hazards. More coaches and school administrators should visit the following sites.

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