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Pasco boy, 9, recalls being injured by lightning bolt that also toppled cows

Angel Hammon, 11, left, and his brother Presley, 9, recall on Monday being injured by lightning about 4 p.m. Sunday while feeding and petting a neighbor’s cows. Presley spent the night in the hospital. Angel and a cow and a calf were uninjured.

KATHLEEN FLYNN | Times

Angel Hammon, 11, left, and his brother Presley, 9, recall on Monday being injured by lightning about 4 p.m. Sunday while feeding and petting a neighbor’s cows. Presley spent the night in the hospital. Angel and a cow and a calf were uninjured.

ZEPHYRHILLS — The sky offered no hint of relief from the oppressive heat at 4 p.m. Sunday as the Hammon boys fed grass to the neighbor's cows through a barbed-wire fence. The few clouds were miles away.

Suddenly, just as 9-year-old Presley reached to pet one of the cows with his right hand, a bolt of lightning slammed into the fence. The impact threw Presley and his brother, Angel, 11, to the ground, along with a cow and a calf.

Within seconds, they all managed to get up. Then Presley fell back down.

"For a few seconds," he recalled Monday afternoon, "everything went blank. I thought I was actually going to die."

Angel ran to the family's house on Diana Drive to get help. Relatives found Presley on the ground. He couldn't move his right side, said his grandmother, Verna Eastridge.

A thunderstorm moved in quickly and made it impossible to fly Presley to a hospital. Emergency crews instead took him to Tampa General by ambulance as several relatives followed in their vehicles.

Angel and the cows were not injured.

Presley, who is about to start third grade at Chester W. Taylor Jr. Elementary, spent the night at the hospital. He was released Monday and doctors will monitor his progress, Eastridge said. He has cloudy spots in his eyes that may be a sign of cataracts, and doctors warned that he may lose his hearing, she said.

At 4 feet 6, Presley would seem an unlikely target for lightning. And his grandmother said the family was surprised the bolt could strike from what seemed to be a clear sky.

"There was no reason to think anything was going to happen," Eastridge said. "We didn't really believe it at first."

The strike was probably the first from a thunderstorm passing through Zephyrhills that afternoon, Bay News 9 chief meteorologist Mike Clay said. Lightning can strike as many as 20 to 25 miles away from a thunderstorm, he said.

"Lightning can strike about as far away as you can hear thunder," Clay said. "So when you hear thunder, it's a good sign you need to be inside."

Most people in Florida who die from lightning strikes are not standing out in the rain, he said. They're struck by the first lightning bolt of the storm, or by the last.

Presley said he was grateful to escape serious injury, but still shaken.

"I'm just scared," he said Monday afternoon. "I'm not going back out there feeding cows again."

Times staff writer Danny Valentine contributed to this report. Vivian Yee can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236.

TIPS

Lightning safety

If you are outdoors:

1. When you first see lightning or hear thunder is the time to go to a building or a vehicle. Lightning often precedes rain, so don't wait for the rain to begin before suspending activities.

2. Avoid water, high ground, open spaces and all metal objects.

3. Where possible, find shelter in a substantial building or in a fully enclosed metal vehicle such as a car, truck or a van with the windows completely shut. Unsafe places include underneath canopies, small picnic or rain shelters, or near trees.

4. If lightning is striking nearby, crouch down; put your feet together. Avoid proximity (minimum of 15 feet) to other people.

If you are indoors:

1. Avoid water. Stay away from doors and windows. Do not use the telephone. Take off headsets. Turn off, unplug, and stay away from appliances, computers, power tools and TV sets. Lightning may strike exterior electric and phone lines, inducing shocks to inside equipment.

2. Suspend activities for 30 minutes after the last observed lightning or thunder.

Source: National Lightning Safety Institute

Pasco boy, 9, recalls being injured by lightning bolt that also toppled cows 08/02/10 [Last modified: Monday, August 2, 2010 11:04pm]
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