School wants changes after boy struck by lightning
Photo: Video by fox4now.com
FORT MYERS - A day after an 11-year-old student was struck by lightning one school is looking to spend more than $11,000 to improve their lightning detection equipment.
Jesse Watlington is still in critical condition a day after being struck by lightning during football practice at Southwest Florida Christian Academy, according to Rev. Richard Powell, a school spokesman.
The odds of being struck by lightning are about one in a million.
Powell defended the school's decision to hold practice because there weren't any signs of lightning. He says they do have lightning detectors but wouldn't elaborate.
The school has canceled all games throughout the weekend, Powell said.
"It's a terrible tragedy," said Coach Larry Gritton with the nearby Evangelical Christian School in Fort Myers.
Gritton, a coach for 15 years, says there's not much they can do when it comes to weather.
"There was really no signs of storms or lightning it just happened kind of quick," said Gritton.
"So you don't think this could have been prevented?," asked Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant.
"I don't think so," said Gritton. "No."
Gritton uses a smart-phone App called Coach Smart, which is also used by the Lee County School District. He also has a handheld device called Strike Alert which can detect lightning up to 40 miles away.
Strike Alert is used by all southwest Florida Catholic schools, according to the Diocese of Venice in Florida.
Both the App and the handheld device, which looks like a pager, can detect lightning once it's already struck. In this case, the first time lightning hit it was too late.
"Is that a problem that the current devices can only detect lightning once it's already happened?," asked Grant.
"I think we saw yesterday that it is," said Gritton.
Because of the lightning strike, Gritton is looking to spend at least $11,500 on a siren system like the one used in Collier County public schools. That system, which sounds an alarm, can predict lightning before it strikes.
"The price is high," said Gritton. "But you can't put a price on human life."
A life a community is now praying for.
"We're just trusting that the Lord will work a might work on this man's life," said Gritton.
The Lee County School District says they also use handheld devices and are considering installing permanent lightning detection systems in their high schools as an education tool.
McGregor Baptist Church, which runs Southwest Florida Christian Academy, will hold a community prayer service at 7 p.m.