Georgia teen dies after lightning strike while vacationing in Florida

Walker Bethune (Photo from Stratford Academy)

A 17-year-old has passed away from his injuries after he was struck by lightning this month in Florida.

According to FOX 5, Walker Bethune was vacationing with his family in Marco Island. He was walking just three feet away from his family when he was struck on July 17. He was rushed to a Miami hospital where he passed away 11 days later. 

His school, Stratford Academy, a private school in Georgia, shared the sad update Wednesday night on Facebook

Stratford community - Tonight we received the heartbreaking news that Walker Bethune passed away from his injuries sustained during his tragic accident. You have fervently prayed for Walker and his family over the last 11 days and we ask that you do not stop. Walker was loved by all within our school family and we lift up his family and friends during this unbearably difficult time.

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FOX 5 reports the family said Bethune passed away listening to his favorite song by the Allman Brothers, "Soulshine."

Stratford Academy also shared a Caring Bridge journal entry from Bethune’s family:

"Walker has finished his race here on Earth. The Lord has received our angel."

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According to the National Weather Service, there have been three lightning fatalities in the U.S. as of mid-July. Bethune’s death is likely the first lightning death in Florida, but the NWS website tallying the total fatalities in 2021 has not been updated since July 20.

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The first lightning-related death of the year was reported in June. Authorities said 70-year-old Michael Ward was struck while on a New Jersey golf course. 

A few days later, a 15-year-old from Alabama died after she was struck by lightning while swimming off of Tybee Island. 

On July 16, NWS reported a 71-year-old man was killed while golfing in Taylor, Pennsylvania.

According to data from NWS, 2020 saw a total of 17 lighting-related deaths. Typically, lightning strikes kill about three to four people in the U.S. by the second week of June. Five were killed by that date last year.