Warm Springs, VA Lightning Strike Kills Five, June 1994



Warm Springs, Va. (AP) -- A family of five boaters was apparently seeking shelter under a tall pine tree from a sudden storm when a massive bolt of lightning struck the tree and killed them instantly.
"It was one heck of a bolt to jolt them like that," said Bath County Sheriff's Lt. Noel Dunnagan. "The pine bark was split all the way down."
The lightning strike apparently occurred during a thunderstorm that swept the area about 2:30 p.m. Thursday. The bodies were discovered Friday afternoon after someone noticed a small boat tied to the shore of an island on Lake Moomaw across from the Bath County Beach, Dunnagan said.
The victims, all from West Virginia, were identified as:
his wife, SHEILA KAY, 37.
their son, MATTHEW, 10, all of Camden on Gauley.
Also killed were HARRISON CHRISTIAN'S uncle, ROBERT C. JOHNSON, and his wife, MARJORIE, 63, of Princeton.
Authorities said JOHNSON was in his 60s but did not know his exact age.
"It looked like they were fishing and got in the storm and sought refuge on the island," Dunnagan said. "That was probably the worst place they could have gone."
The family sought shelter in a grove of pines on the island, which is about 300 yards long and 100 yards wide, Dunnagan said. Their severely burned bodies were found within a 15-foot radius.
Dunnagan said a witness had seen lightning strike the island during the storm. "He said there were two big bolts of lightning," Dunnagan said.
Charles Edwards of the National Weather Service said there were some strong storms across the area Thursday.
"The rule is, don't get under a tree," Edwards said. "Lightning strikes at the highest peak."
The West Virginia family was experienced in the outdoors, and they were frequent visitors to Lake Moomaw, a 2,350-acre reservoir on the Jackson River, said Jane Bay, HARRISON CHRISTIAN'S sister.
"They loved fishing and camping; they mostly came to Moomaw," Ms. Bay said. "They just came up that morning for a day trip. They were going to go back late that night because HARRISON had to be at work."
Dan Gregory, a former employer of HARRISON CHRISTIAN, said CHRISTIAN was the director of security for High Power Energy Co. in Summersville, W. Va. MRS. CHRISTIAN was a homemaker, and MATTHEW was a fifth-grader at Glade Elementary School in Cowen, W. Va., Ms. Bay said.

Daily News Record Harrisonburg Virginia 06-20-1994