A 16-year-old girl from Florida died yesterday after being struck by lightning on a hunting trip with her father.
Baylee Holbrook and her dad, Matthew Holbrook, were hit after lightning struck a tree, according to the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office. Matthew lost consciousness, and when he woke up, he found that Baylee wasn’t breathing.
He called 911 and began CPR, and emergency medical services rushed the girl to the hospital. As she remained in critical condition, her friends and family gathered at the Palatka Junior-Senior High School flag pole to pray. Local media reports that hundreds rallied in the school gym to send messages of love and hope to her family.
Baylee was a member of the varsity cheer team, and was by all accounts much loved by her community.
“She cares so much about everyone else. She has a heart for her friends, people she loves, people she comes in contact with she has a heart for people in general,” Willie McKinnon, the family’s friend and pastor, said.
“She’s hilarious, she always comes on with a smile on her face she could be battling the worst day, but she comes with a smile on her face,” added Kaitlyn Sanders, one of Baylee’s friends.
The 16-year-old was also an accomplished hunter. Her Instagram account is filled with images of the animals she’s harvested, which include deer, turkeys, pigs, and alligators. Her account also notes that she worked as field staff for Swacker Broadheads.
“We hunt fish all sorts of things like that,” her cousin told local media. “She’s a fighter and I know she will stay in this and I love you Baylee.”
When Baylee’s church announced a prayer vigil, they encouraged everyone to show their support by wearing camo. Her last post on Facebook was to share the most recent price list for the local deer processor.
The sheriff’s office announced on September 28 that Baylee died at the hospital surrounded by friends and family.
“Please keep the family in your thoughts and prayers as they navigate a difficult road ahead of them and respect their privacy,” the department said.
It is unclear whether Baylee and her father were hunting from a tree stand or were on the ground when lightning struck the tree. In either case, the storm could have been as many as 10 miles away, according to the National Weather Service.
The agency advises those caught outside during a thunderstorm to seek shelter immediately in the closest building or vehicle. They advise against sheltering under trees, and they say that touching “golf clubs, bicycles, farm equipment, etc.” could be dangerous. It is reasonable to assume that firearms and bows would also fall into that category.