Bradenton family survives close call with lightning

jtate@bradenton.comJuly 2, 2013 

BRADENTON -- A mother and her children survived a camping experience that turned into a dangerous brush with Mother Nature early Monday morning.

Lightning struck a tree in the backyard of Lindsey Lester's home on the 2200 block of 20th Avenue West, where she, her three children and boyfriend were camping.

Electric discharge from the lightning bolt reportedly hit Lester and her young children, Joelle and J.R., and left a long dark mark on the tree trunk.

The trio were rushed to Manatee Memorial Hospital, but none was seriously injured. They were released in about two hours.

"Everyone's fine," said Lester.

The electric discharge went through Lester and her son's stomach and her daughter's feet.

"It doesn't feel like you're sticking your finger in a socket. It feels like an electric jolt, a big one, through your body," said Lester.

She said the entire camping experience had turned out to be a nightmare.

"He couldn't get time off for vacation," said Lester referring to her boyfriend, Michael Slicker. "So we combined it all to make it into the kids learning how to camp and his vacation, but it turned out to be extremely horrible."

Lester said the 10-person tent, which she received for her birthday, was equipped with air mattresses, a little fridge and air conditioning. They also set up a camp fire in the backyard and grilled food every other night.

The Bradenton Police Department conducted a short investigation but concluded there was no fault on the part of the parents.

Neighbor Joyce Carnahan said she was concerned the lightning strike had injured her neighbors of the past four years, whom she described as good, quiet people.

"I didn't know what happened. We were scared that it hit and hurt one of the kids," said Carnahan.

She said the loud noise from the lightning strike woke her out of her sleep. She said she immediately went outside to see what happened.

"We got up to come out here and there was an ambulance, fire trucks and they said they were struck by lightning in the back," she said.

National Geographic News reports most U.S. lightning deaths and injuries occur during the summer when the combination of lightning and outdoor activities peak.

For Lester, this summer outdoor activity will be re-evaluated.

"I still love camping, but we won't be camping in the backyard," said Lester.

Janey Tate, city of Bradenton and Palmetto reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. You can follow her on Twitter at Janey_Tate.

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