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Miles apart, Polk couple die within minutes of each other

She died of an asthma attack. He, not knowing, was electrocuted at work.

Willadean James didn't see the other ambulance pull up to the emergency room doors.

She was frantic. She had watched earlier that day as her son's girlfriend collapsed outside the house the couple shared. And now they told her that the woman, Linda Dickerson, had died.

She was still trying to grasp it when someone approached and asked whether she was related to a James Griffey.

I'm his mother, she said.

Ma'am, the staffer said, there has been an accident.

An ambulance had just brought Griffey in from a well-drilling site where he was working. He had been electrocuted. The emergency staff at Lake Wales Medical Centers was working on him.

It was no use. Griffey was pronounced dead at 12:54 p.m. Wednesday _ just 51 minutes after Linda Dickerson had died, apparently of a severe asthma attack.

James had called her son's boss not long before, asking that they send him to the hospital to be with Dickerson. But he died not knowing that she also was gone, his mother said.

Griffey, 38, and Dickerson, 41, will be buried beside each other today at Woodlawn Cemetery in Bartow.

It had been a hard year for the couple. On May 7, the state took away Griffey's son, Theodore, 11, and daughter, Christina, 10, and put them in foster homes.

James said state officials claimed the children had no supervision and had to be removed from the home and placed in foster care.

As he did every morning, Griffey called his mother Wednesday, about 7:30. He asked her to go with Linda to pay the electric bill. She agreed and, as always, warned him to be careful at work.

He had been working periodically for three weeks with Spivey Well Drilling of Lake Wales, filling in when another worker was off.

A Polk sheriff's spokesman said Griffey was electrocuted when he got caught in wiring. James' husband, Loren Walsh, said Griffey was on a truck when a cable snapped, whipped around a power line, and charged the truck with electricity.

Walsh said Dickerson had been to a walk-in clinic earlier in the day, but the doctor wasn't in. She and James stopped by the store, got some groceries and went home.

As she was putting the food away, James could see Dickerson outside by the truck. The younger woman began leaning against it.

"I ran out there and said, "Honey, are you all right?' She looked at me strange like she knew something was happening," James said.

"I laid her down," she said. "She died right there."