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    Lightning strike injures couple

    The Land O'Lakes couple and a woman who wasn't struck but fell are hospitalized after the bolt hits outside a Tampa church.


    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published June 25, 2001

    TAMPA -- A Land O'Lakes couple attending Sunday morning services were knocked down by lightning outside Idlewild Baptist Church.

    The bolt hit a nearby pine tree at 10:30 a.m. as some church members were leaving one service and others were starting to arrive for the next service. The lightning traveled down the tree and about 15 feet across the parking lot to a puddle where Richard and Colleen Jones were standing by their car.

    "It was extremely loud," said the Rev. Ken Whitten, who thought the two were heading into the 10:55 a.m. service. "Word spread out quickly, and people went out to make sure they were okay."

    After going outside to see what had happened, the pastor began the next service with a prayer for the victims.

    The couple were taken to St. Joseph's Hospital, where Richard Jones, 50, was listed in fair condition and Colleen Jones, 46, was in good condition.

    They declined to be interviewed.

    The lightning also might have injured an unidentified man, but officials said he left before Fire-Rescue arrived at the Bearss Avenue church.

    And a fourth person, 81-year-old Ruth Manning of Temple Terrace, apparently wasn't struck but was so startled by the sudden noise that she lost her balance and fell.

    She received cuts and scrapes on her face and was being treated at University Community Hospital.

    Richard Jones appeared to be the worst off, Whitten said.

    He was bleeding from the head, possibly caused by hitting one of the landscape railroad ties around the tree that was struck. His wife was bleeding from the nose.

    As church members waited for emergency workers to arrive, some, including doctors, came to help, Whitten said.

    The husband and wife kept inquiring about each other's condition. At one point, an emergency medical technician who attends Idlewild reached down and put their hands together.

    "He was kind of coming in and out of consciousness," Whitten said. "When he came in, he was asking how she was. She was asking how he was."

    Across the church parking lot, Mrs. Manning and her daughter were heading to services when the lightning came.

    "I was just walking along the sidewalk, and all of a sudden, there was a clap of thunder and lightning, and I just fell down," Mrs. Manning said in a bedside interview. "I didn't know what hit me."

    About 10 to 15 lightning strikes occurred in the Lutz area around that time, part of a thunderstorm pattern that has been moving through the area since Friday, National Weather Service meteorologist Russell Henes said.

    Despite her mishap, Mrs. Manning was in good spirits in the hospital. She quipped: "Might be a warning."

    To have lightning strike outside the church is a bit odd, Whitten said.

    "It really is," he said. "And yet the Bible says we never know what a day may bring forth.

    "We just happened to be speaking today on God having all power and us being powerless. It is one of those things you feel terrible that happened."

    Mrs. Manning, who has been a member at Idlewild for the past six months, said she has no plans to change churches, though she could do without the violent acts of nature.

    "I like Idlewild," she said, "but I don't like the lightning."

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