Lightning Strike Kills Football Player, Dozens Injured - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

9/15/04-Grapeland

Lightning Strike Kills Football Player, Dozens Injured

Lightning strikes a football practice in the small town of Grapeland. Dozens are hurt, and now one has died.

The strike happened a little after 5:30 Tuesday afternoon at the practice field in Grapeland. That's north of Crockett in Houston County. Wednesday afternoon, 18-year-old Russell Pennington died at a Houston hospital.

In the moments after the strike, those who were there describe chaos. Some couldn't move, and some were unconscious, but coaches rushed quickly to Pennington's side to administer CPR.

"[It was] a single bolt of lightning. I knew it was close, that's when I got out of my truck and headed toward the field." says Mitchell Huff, who was nearby at the time.

Many in this small town of 1500 came to the practice field and to the hospital as players and coaches were struck by the bolt that seemed to come from nowhere.

Jeffrey Bridges was knocked unconscious.

"When I woke up, I rolled over, tried to roll over and I couldn't feel anything from my hip to my toes and I tried to get up and I fell back down," he says.

There was no warning, no feeling of impending danger, and no warning from an electronic device that senses lightning strikes.

When she heard what happened, Jeffrey's mother had a horrible feeling. It's one that became tragic reality.

Shirley Bridges: "My first instinct with lightning is that there are fatalities. You think the worst and when they told me they were all knocked down on the field, I was really concerned."

The concern in this small town, and now the grief, is evident. School was in session as normal, but will be cut short Thursday as counselors are on hand.

"In a small community, everybody knows everyone's child. We had close to 300 people at the hospital last night," Shirley says.

Huff: "[The town is] coming together even more as a community. It's something that will bring a community together."

Players will come together on this field again. But not this week, despite what Jeffrey and some of his friends say they want.

"A lot of us want to play this Friday, but I don't think the coaches want us to play."

Doctors who treated those hurt last night say it might be some time before the effects of the strike wear off. Numbness, hearing loss, kidney problems can all result from what happened. And they say they shouldn't be back on the football field for a while.

Dr. Patrick Warren, surgeon at ETMC Crockett: "The kids that had the greater injury than others... I don't think you'd want to put them in a state of dehydration. I don't think two to three days would be adequate."

All the players and coaches have been released from ETMC in Crockett.

Reported by Morgan Palmer.

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