Lightning hits pool causing boys to drown

Published June 10, 2000|Updated Sept. 27, 2005

The boys, 13 and 11, were good swimmers, so the bolt must have knocked them unconscious, Broward County's medical examiner says.

It could have been any two boys, sneaking a mischievous plunge in a local swimming pool during a summer rain.

But Thursday afternoon's rain turned into a heavy thunderstorm, and the two boys became victims of a deadly Florida combination: Lightning stunned them, and water killed them.

An autopsy Friday found that Gonzalo Cid, 13, and his 11-year-old buddy, Matthew Benjamin, both of Coconut Creek, just west of Pompano Beach, drowned after lightning struck the community pool in which they were swimming sometime between 5:30 and 6 p.m. Thursday.

Dr. Joshua Perper, Broward County's chief medical examiner, said his office found no sign that either boy had been struck by lightning while they swam in the pool at Swan's Landing, a small community in the Regency Lakes subdivision in North Coconut Creek.

Since both boys knew how to swim well, Perper found it highly likely that lightning struck the water, knocking the boys unconscious long enough for them to drown, he said.

"They drowned, but most likely there was a lightning strike that hit the water," Perper said. "We are ruling the cause of death as, "drowning precipitated by lightning.' "

The two boys became the fourth and fifth people to drown in Broward County in the last week, Perper said. Twenty-nine people have drowned in the county this year.

Drowning is the leading cause of death in Florida for children 4 years old and younger.

Florida also has been called the Lightning Capital of the United States by the National Weather Service because about 50 people in the state are hit by thunderbolts each year. More than 1-million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes are recorded in the state each year, the weather service reports.

"Florida is the electrocution capital of the world," Perper said. "I think it is very important for the public to pay attention to this kind of hazard and to go indoors during a storm.

"Certainly, parents should impress on their children that they should not swim during a thunderstorm," Perper said.

In Regency Lakes, where yellow police tape remained Friday outside the pool where the two boys died, community leaders planned to stress safety around swimming pools, canals and bad weather.

"This has had an impact on everybody," said Greta Silver, who edits the community newsletter. "None of us ever wants to have anything like this happen in the future. We're all determined to see what we can do to prevent it."

Silver plans to write about swimming pool and lightning safety in the next newsletter.

No one was with Gonzalo and Matthew when they swam in the pool at Swan's Landing. The community's rules prohibit children from swimming in its pools without an adult present, Silver said.

The pool is surrounded by a fence with a locked gate, which was open when the boys were found. It normally remains locked to everyone except those who live in Swan's Landing, and Gonzalo lived in another section of Regency Lakes, which will eventually contain 717 homes.

Officer Anthony Avello of the Coconut Creek Police Department said it wasn't necessary for the boys to force their way in.

"There's no reason ," Avello said. "They could climb the fence."

Both families on Friday said they were too upset to talk. Gonzalo's family was packing a moving van to go elsewhere.

The two boys lived relatively close together. Gonzalo, a student at Crystal Lake Middle School, lived in Eagle Cay, a neighborhood of less than 100 homes in Regency Lakes. Matthew, who attended Tradewinds Elementary School, lived in a mobile home park south of Regency Lakes on Lyons Road.