SANFORD, Fla. – Sanford Airport officials are rallying behind one of their officers after his wife was killed and his 10-year-old daughter and their family dog were injured in a lightning strike in Winter Springs Thursday afternoon.
Nicole Tedesco, the wife of Orlando Sanford Airport police Officer Andrew Tedesco, died in a lightning strike after picking up her two daughters, 10-year-old Ava and 8-year-old Gia, from Keeth Elementary School in Winter Springs, police said at a news briefing Friday.
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“While (Andrew Tedesco’s) obviously devastated by his loss, he is doing remarkably well as he focuses his attention on caring for his daughters Ava and Gia,” said Sanford Airport Authority Chief Thomas Fuehrer, whose team set up a GoFundMe for the family.
Fuehrer said he called Andrew Tedesco, who joined the Sanford Airport Authority staff in April 2021, to inform him about the tragedy while Tedesco was getting go-karts ready at the track for his daughters.
“I do know that the family did lots of things together. One of their passions was go-kart racing and that’s what they love doing,” Fuehrer added.
Winter Springs police initially said Nicole Tedesco was waiting on one of her daughters to be released from school when the strike happened, but later learned the mother and her two daughters had just left Keeth Elementary when lightning struck.
The Tedescos’ 10-year-old daughter and family dog, along with an 18-year-old woman whose identity has not been released, were also injured from the lightning strike at Trotwood Park in the area of 1300 Park Villa Place. Investigators believe a tree the victims were standing by was struck by lightning and those close to it were hurt when the area became energized.
At least 13 calls were made to 911, describing “two people down” after people in the area felt the lightning strike.
“This storm came upon us fast ... there (were) no alerts, no severe weather alerts, that came in and prompted, ‘Hey, the storm’s coming.’ It was, ‘Bang!’ just like that. Little bit of rain came, lightning and then it was just pure mayhem after that,” Winter Springs police Chief Matthew Tracht said.
According to the Seminole County Fire Department, Nicole Tedesco and Ava were taken to the hospital, where Nicole Tedesco died shortly after the lightning strike. Their family dog was also transported to an animal clinic.
Fuehrer said in an update that Ava and the dog have since been released from the hospital and are in stable condition.
“It’s amazing how children are so resilient. I was there when (Ava’s) dad, you know, told her that her mom was gone. (She was) very, very sad, but took it very well. I know she remembered... being there with her mother and then the next thing she remembered was waking up in the back of an ambulance because somebody was poking her with a IV needle,” he said. “All things considered, she was in good spirits. I know this is going to take time for things to settle in and kind of come to reality for herself. But overall, remarkable.”
Winter Springs Mayor Kevin McCann was also in attendance, driving home that the city was there to support the family during this trying time.
“Ultimately, we are a very close-knit community. It is the wishes of our entire community, the city commissioners that are with me and our entire city government that the Tedesco family understand that we all have families and this family is not alone,” McCann said.
Seminole County Public Schools released the following statement after the tragedy:
“This afternoon one of our Seminole County Public Schools’ students from Keeth Elementary and a member of their family were involved in a weather-related event. Shortly after the scheduled start of dismissal, a rapidly developing storm resulted in the immediate suspension of dismissal procedures. Unfortunately, the Keeth Elementary Cougar and their parent were struck by lightning at/near Trotwood Park. Emergency responders transported both the student and parent for treatment,” the statement reads. “Seminole County Public Schools and Keeth Elementary School remain committed to the safety and security of all students and will continue to take safety precautions in the event of inclement weather. Additional counselors will be on campus to support students and/or staff impacted by this event. Our thoughts are with the families, students, and staff.”
To donate and help support the Tedesco family, Orlando Sanford International Airport has set up a GoFundMe page.
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