LEE COUNTY, Fla. - The father of the boy struck and killed by lightning calling for answers tonight. Chuck Watlington lost his 11-year old son, Jesse when he was fatally struck by lightning during football practice last month. Since then, he's been trying to find out if this tragedy could have been prevented.
Tonight....Four in your Corner investigator Mike Mason has a story you will only see on fox 4. Chuck Watlington wants to do whatever it takes to keep this from happening to anyone else. He has questions for the church about exactly what led up to the tragedy....tonight we're getting some answers.
On October 3rd the Watlington family was ripped apart.
Chuck Watlington:: "Our hearts have been torn out of our chests. All four of us were one."
Their son, 11-year old Jesse, was struck by lightning while on the football field at Southwest Florida Christian Academy. Jesse was taken to Tampa General Hospital....hooked up to machines...pronounced dead 4 days later.
Chuck Watlington: “I want to make sure that this doesn't happen to another kid ever again and my son will be the last kid on a playfield that will be struck by lightning."
After Jesse died.....Chuck says he began his own investigation into what happened that day. Chuck wonders if the coaches really used a lightning measuring device on that tragic day. Pastor Richard Powell spoke about this last month. He’s the Senior Pastor of McGregor Baptist Church which runs the school Jesse attended.
Pastor Richard Powell: "As is our typical habit, the lightning measuring device that we had was operating."
Chuck Watlington: "All the kids have the same story, the kids who were on the field with my son, there was just a handful of them; they've come forward with their mothers and they all told me they always saw that yellow box on the field and on this day it wasn't out there."
So we contacted Pastor Powell - he said he was out of town so we spoke with him by phone. When we asked the pastor about the device he told us: "We always have lightning devices, but I don't know exactly where they were at the time."
And Chuck says most importantly.....staff members told him the 2 coaches who were supervising Jesse and his team did not know CPR.
Chuck Watlington: "One of his coaches just sat there and stood over my son."
Last month Pastor Powell talked about this.
Pastor Richard Powell: "I know our coaching staff was trained in that, and some of the coaching staff."
Today - when we asked Pastor Powell if the 2 coaches on the field that day didn't know CPR, he said, "Why don't all the coaches know CPR? It's not required to know CPR."
According to state statute, all athletic coaches in public schools must hold a state issued certificate which includes taking a valid CPR class. The Florida Department of Education says private schools - like Southwest Florida Christian Academy - have their own rules.
Chuck also wonders if a defibrillator - or AED - would have saved Jesse's life. He says he asked the school's safety director about it.
Chuck Watlington: "He says we don't have a defibrillator but we have another device that's like a step under a defibrillator. It can restart a heart, he says, but we didn't have it that day on the field."
Pastor Powell would not comment about this....saying it's "Not a detail to debate in the media."
He did say: "We will continue to minister and pray for a family that is grieving in ways that are almost beyond comprehension."
One thing is clear. The Watlingtons are devastated. They have since left the church and are working to keep this tragedy from happening again.
Chuck Watlington: "I want to be in contact with lawmakers to make sure we have some steps in order. Lightning detection devices, defibrillators, make sure coaches are CPR qualified."
The Lee County School District requires all coaches to know CPR....but their rules don't apply to private schools.