Evangelical Christian School in Fort Myers is looking to spend more than $11,000 on improving its lightning detection equipment after a student at nearby Southwest Florida Christian Academy was struck during football practice, WFTX-TV reports.
Jesse Watlington, 11 years old, was in critical condition a day after a bolt of lightning struck him in the chest as he ran onto the practice field last week. He stopped breathing on the field, and was revived by paramedics at a local hospital before being airlifted to Tampa General, where he spent most of the weekend in a coma. The boy died shortly thereafter, WTVT reports.
Rev. Richard Powell, a spokesman for Southwest Florida Christian Academy, told WFTX last week that there were not any signs of lighting prior to practice.
"There was no visual expectation, no sound expectation of having lightning or thunder but just very surprisingly there was a big clap, a big bolt of lightning,” he said.
In an interview with the station, Larry Gritton, the coach at Evangelical Christian School, said he uses a smart-phone app called Coach Smart and a handheld device called Strike Alert that can detect lightning up to 40 miles away.
According to WFTX, Coach Smart is also used by the Lee County School District, and Strike Alert is used by all southwest Florida Catholic schools. But both items can only detect lightning after it has already struck, which in Jesse Watlington’s case, was too late.
Due to the tragedy, Gritton says Evangelical Christian School is prepared to spend at least $11,500 on installing a siren system similar to the one used in Collier County Public Schools. That system can detect lightning before it strikes.
WFTX reports that the Lee County School District is also considering implementing permanent lightning detection systems in their high schools.
The odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are one in a million, according to the National Weather Service.