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Teenager struck, killed by lightning

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

Joy Lewis, of McDonough, said she and her family were "in a state of shock," when they learned a member of her family had been fatally struck by lightning.

"We couldn't believe it happened," said Lewis, 39.

Her cousin, 14-year-old Eric West, was struck and killed by lightning Tuesday.

The McDonough Fire Department responded to a call at approximately 8:45 p.m., at a house on Regal Drive in the Huntington Ridge subdivision, according to Fire Chief Steve Morgan.

He said when firefighters arrived at the scene, they found West and a teenage girl under a tree, outside at the home.

"[West] was not breathing," Morgan said. "They started CPR on him. They continued CPR until they got to Henry Medical Center [HMC]." West was pronounced dead at the hospital, Morgan said.

The chief added that the girl who was with the victim, Ceyara Taylor, was taken to HMC and was conscious when she arrived at the hospital. Taylor was later transported to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, according to Meg Flynn, public relations coordinator at Egleston. Taylor was released from the hospital on Wednesday.

West's aunt, Kenna Harris, 32, lives two doors down from where her nephew was killed, and was at home at the time of the incident. She said kids in the neighborhood, including West and Taylor, were outside when it began to rain.

"We told them to come in the house, and all the kids went in the house except for them two," Harris said. "The lightning just hit. We thought he was in the house. We had no idea he was out there."

West and his family had been living in Henry County a short time, having recently moved to the area from Mississippi. Harris said West's family plans to fly his body back to Mississippi, for him to be buried.

West, the aunt said, was due to begin the ninth grade in the fall, at Henry County High School.

Losing the teen, Joy Lewis said, has hit her family hard. "We're just going to try to take it one day at a time," she added.

Chief Morgan said West's case should serve as a reminder about the "very dangerous" nature of lightning storms.

"Lightning kills more people on an annual basis, than tornadoes, hurricanes or winter storms," Morgan said. "Only flash floods cause more deaths on an annual basis."

"The best place to be in a lightning storm, would be inside a house," he said. "Lightning will strike where it wants to strike, so your best bet is to get inside."