(SEYMOUR) - Four Seymour High School girls softball players were injured when lightning struck during practice Thursday afternoon.
Seymour Community Schools Superintendent Teran Armstrong said Emily Bobb, a freshman, was struck by lightning and she was transferred to Riley Hospital for Children for further treatment after first being taken to Schneck Medical Center. Bobb was reported in critical but stable condition Thursday night. Her condition was upgraded this morning to "good" condition.
Three other students were taken to Schneck for evaluation. Armstrong said they were all released Thursday evening. The girls, Kristin George, a sophomore, Kelsey Nolting, a junior, and Carlee Westfall, a senior, were complaining of headaches and pain. Armstrong says they were not struck by lightning and were really nowhere near Emily.
Questioned by reporters Aubrey Woods and Dan Davis, about the reaction of the injured students' teammates, Seymour Athletic Director Brandon Harpe says "they're doing about as well as can be expected" in the wake of such a situation.
"At Seymour High School, we're a tight-knit family, so they're shook up but are prayerfully supporting their friends, coaches and teammates," Harpe said.
The girls head softball coach, Brian Personett, said he could not comment about the incident.
Abbott said in talking to witnesses at the scene it appears most if not all the teens on the field felt the lightning strike.
Although there was a weather advisory from the National Weather Service that there was a possibility for thunderstorms popping up across southern Indiana on Thursday and into today, Jackson County had not fallen under any thunderstorm warnings
Thursday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service's warnings and advisories website.
Abbott said skies over Seymour were clear at the time of the incident.
Duane Davis of Jackson County Emergency Management Agency was surprised to hear of the lightning strike.
"I was not aware of anything (warnings) at that time," Davis said. "I was watching the weather radar at that time, and everything was pretty well south of us," although a thunderstorm did eventually rumble through Brownstown afterward.
Harpe said the SHS athletic department follows Indiana High School Athletic Association policy when it comes to lightning and its threat.
"We monitor the weather and we follow the 30-minute rule," Harpe said.
That rule recommends coaches keep their teams sheltered from the weather for at least 30 minutes after they hear the last thunderclap.
Armstrong stressed the athletic department follows that policy closely.
"Our coaches did nothing wrong," Armstrong said. "Those coaches stayed until the three were released, and now they're in Indianapolis. They are very dedicated to the welfare of those girls on their teams."
According to the IHSAA, "lightning is one of the most consistent and underrated causes of weather-related deaths or injury in the United States" and "lightning-related injuries are of particular concern during the late spring and summer months, and during daytime hours," noting that the "risk of lightning-related injuries appears to be of greatest concern during some of the most active periods of outdoor scholastic activities."
Harpe was unsure whether the team would resume practice today.
"At this point our students are our only concern," Harpe said. "We'll take a look at that later."
Harpe said he was impressed with the swift action of first responders.
"After talking with Chief Abbott, the first responders were incredible," Harpe said. "I'm hearing that within the first minute we had first responders on the scene. We're grateful to have local heroes like that."
Lightning Safety Tips
• No place outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area.
• If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you.
• When you hear thunder, immediately move to safe shelter.
• Safe shelter is a substantial building or inside an enclosed, metal-topped vehicle.
• Stay in safe shelter at least 30 minutes after you hear the last clap of thunder.
• If you are caught outside with no safe shelter anywhere nearby, the following actions
may reduce your risk:
• Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks.
• Never lie flat on the ground.
• Never use a tree for shelter.
• Never use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter
• Immediately get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water.
• Stay away from objects that conduct electricity.
Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
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