MERRITT ISLAND, Fla. – Friday’s lightning bolt on Via Salerno Court in Merritt Island set a palm tree on fire, knocked out A/C and three televisions at one house and sent three girls to the hospital.
Three days later, one girl is still fighting for her life, still unresponsive, according to close friends.
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Neighbor Jemali Bryan ran outside in horror after he heard the deafening crack of thunder and discovered his neighbor and her friends on the ground.
“Her skin color was turning purple, her mouth was burned,” Bryan said.
Bryan called 911 and said he stayed on the phone with the dispatcher, relaying instructions to the girls on how to do CPR on their friend.
Friends of the girl who was injured the worst, identified as Lori, created a Gofundme page that has already brought in more than $6,000 in donations from more than 100 people.
The other two girls with Lori were up and walking after the lightning strike that seemed to come out of nowhere.
Bryan said the girls had been outside in the cul-de-sac for most of the day and were walking to the pond in the backyard when the bolt struck.
“It was just really dark — really, really dark,” Bryan said. “It was rumbling a little bit, but then it stopped.”
News 6 Chief Meteorologist Tom Sorrells said most deadly lightning strikes in Florida happen before or after the storm.
“The problem with lightning is more people are killed by the approaching storm and the storm that is leaving than at the height of the storm,” Sorrells said. “Because during the height of the storm people go to take cover. When the storm is approaching, they don’t usually take cover for the first flash, they think that they have time, and they wait a while. But if you’re hearing rumblings of thunder, the truth is you have to take cover for at least half an hour.”
Sorrells said Florida leads the nation in deaths from lightning, averaging about 10 per year.
“I think a lot of trouble is they don’t hear the rumble for four-to-five minutes. They think it’s over. They go out,” Sorrells said. “You have to give it 30 minutes after the last time you heard the thunder before you’re safe to go outside.”