Officials say a lightning strike on a Florida beach killed an Alabama man and seriously injured his stepson. Deputies say the two were struck by lightning while walking on the shore of an island near Panama City, Fla.
James Keith Brown, a 42-year-old man from Chelsea, was killed in the apparent lightning strike. His stepson, 14-year-old Tristan Berger, is in critical condition at a Pensacola hospital.
Investigators say the Chelsea family was staying on their boat anchored off of the bay side of Shell Island in Florida's panhandle for several days. On Monday, the family took a walk along the shore of the gulf side of the island. Officials say they headed back toward their boat when the weather worsened.
Brown's wife told deputies that she heard a loud noise, turned around and saw her husband and son face down in the sand. Brown had been carrying the 14-year-old boy on his back because his stepson had recently suffered a broken ankle and was wearing a cast. Both were apparently struck by the lightning.
Deputies with the Bay County Sheriff's Office arrived to the scene just before noon on Monday, Aug. 6. Brown was pronounced dead at the scene. Berger was evaluated at a local hospital then transported to Sacred Heart hospital in Pensacola, where he remained in critical condition Monday evening.
Due to the stormy weather, Berger was taken by emergency ambulance rather than a helicopter to Pensacola. A Bay County deputy transported Berger's mother and sister to Pensacola.
Tristan Berger had just finished his eighth grade year at Chelsea Middle School. The CMS principal, Bill Harper, described Berger as positive, upbeat, and said he was always ready to help out with projects put on by the school's student government association.
Harper says the school is working on a plan to help students deal with the news about Tristan once they return to school. He said the school also plans to help the family with whatever assistance they may need.