Lightning concerns spark Lehigh Acres petition
Photo: Video by fox4now.com
CREATED Oct. 2, 2013
marks the one-year anniversary of a lightning strike that killed Fort Myers 11-year-old Jesse Watlington out on the football field.
A year later, some parents wonder if enough is being done to keep your kids safe
A group of Pop Warner football parents in Lee County are circulating a petition in an attempt to make their fields safer.
They say their county facilities are set apart from all the rest in the area, but not in a good way.
"We have to do something," said Pete Gonzalez. "We have to get these parents and local businesses involved in this."
Gonzalez believes there's still more work to do to protect others.
"There's no buildings for them to go to," Gonzalez says of the Pop Warner fields in Lehigh Acres. He is the head coach for the Junior Midget team of the Lehigh Acres Raiders.
"How does Lehigh Acres and their facilities compare to other places you've coached," reporter Kelli Stegeman asked Gonzalez.
"The worst, the absolute worst," he replied.
Gonzalez says other Lee County teams have locker rooms and large buildings for shelter in storms but says Lehigh Community Park doesn't.
Right now, a storm comes and everyone in the park scatters to different places.
"5,6, 700 kids plus parents, plus coaches," said Gonzalez. "That can become a little logistical problem."
He says that makes it difficult to stay accountable of the kids he coaches.
The Raiders did have two trailers donated to serve as locker rooms this year until a county roadblock.
"We were denied, and denied, and denied," said Gonzalez.
Lee County says there's a reason for that.
A memo from Lee County Parks and Recreation Director Dave Harner says "We do not take such trailers because of liability issues and costs associated with upkeep."
Gonzalez has now started a petition to build a new locker room.
The county says 'maintaining new structures is not an option' because of budget issues.
Gonzalez wants more for these kids he's dedicated decades to.
"The best games you ever want to see are the smaller kids, that are 6, 7, 8 years old on the field. It's a helmet with little legs running," he said.
As for coaching: "I'd be doing it until I can't do it no more."
A Lee County spokeswoman says it's important to note that over the last few months the county has been hard at work to increase safety at community parks by purchasing new lightning detection alert systems.
She adds that they always appreciate new ideas.