2 high school grads remembered after deadly Mammoth Park lightning strike | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

2 high school grads remembered after deadly Mammoth Park lightning strike

Megan Tomasic
1293363_web1_gtr-lightningduo-061519
Kaitlyn E. Rosensteel and Brendan McGowan
1293363_web1_1290103_web1_gtr-Lightningstrike1
Joe Napsha | Tribune-Review
1293363_web1_moe
Beadling Soccer Club
Kaitlyn E. Rosensteel
1293363_web1_GTR-GCCbase1-042419
Tribune-Review
Greensburg Central Catholic’s Brendan McGowan catches a grounder to infield against Ligonier Valley in WPIAL baseball Wednesday, April 17, 2019, at Ligonier Valley High School.
1293363_web1_gtr-LightningVictims006-061519
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
The tree where lightning struck and killed recent high school graduates Brendan McGowan of North Huntingdon, and Kaitlyn E. Rosensteel, of Donora, at Mammoth Park Lake in Mt. Pleasant Township on Thursday, June 13, 2019.
1293363_web1_gtr-LightningVictims005-061519
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
The tree where lightning struck and killed recent high school graduates Brendan McGowan of North Huntingdon, and Kaitlyn E. Rosensteel, of Donora, at Mammoth Park Lake in Mt. Pleasant Township on Thursday, June 13, 2019.
1293363_web1_gtr-LightningVictims001-061519
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Principal Ben Althof, talks about recent graduate Brendan McGowan, at Greensburg Central Catholic High School in Hempfield Township, on Friday, June 14, 2019.
1293363_web1_gtr-LightningVictims007-061519
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
The tree where lightning struck and killed recent high school graduates Brendan McGowan of North Huntingdon, and Kaitlyn E. Rosensteel, of Donora, at Mammoth Park Lake in Mt. Pleasant Township on Thursday, June 13, 2019.
1293363_web1_gtr-LightningVictims002-061519
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Principal Ben Althof, talks about recent graduate Brendan McGowan, at Greensburg Central Catholic High School in Hempfield Township, on Friday, June 14, 2019.
1293363_web1_gtr-LightningVictims003-061519
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Principal Ben Althof, talks about recent graduate Brendan McGowan, at Greensburg Central Catholic High School in Hempfield Township, on Friday, June 14, 2019.
1293363_web1_gtr-LightningVictims004-061519
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
The tree where lightning struck and killed recent high school graduates Brendan McGowan of North Huntingdon, and Kaitlyn E. Rosensteel, of Donora, at Mammoth Park Lake in Mt. Pleasant Township on Thursday, June 13, 2019.
1293363_web1_gtr-Lightning2
Greensburg Catholic Diocese
The Rev. Eric Dinga, a pastor in Latrobe, participates in an outdoor prayer service at Greensburg Central Catholic High School on Friday, June 14, 2019, to remember a recent graduate and another former student who were killed by lightning a day earlier.
1293363_web1_gtr-Lightning1
Greensburg Catholic Diocese
More than 100 students, parents and school staff attended an outdoor prayer service at Greensburg Central Catholic High School on Friday, June 14, 2019, to remember a recent graduate and another former student who were killed by lightning a day earlier.

Sergio Bell would FaceTime every night with one of his best friends, Kaitlyn E. Rosensteel, who he nicknamed Bubba and took to prom. Everyone else referred to her as Moe.

With his other best friend, Brendan A. McGowan, he would jam out to music in the car, sometimes persuading McGowan to let him drive the Jeep.

Almost 100 students and family members gathered Friday at Greensburg Central Catholic High School to honor Rosensteel of Donora and McGowan of North Huntingdon.

The 18-year-olds were killed Thursday by a lightning strike at Mammoth Park in Mt. Pleasant Township.

“This world didn’t deserve either of them,” said Sara Orndoff, McGowan’s girlfriend and one of Rosensteel’s best friends and soccer teammates.

McGowan played baseball at Greensburg Central Catholic and was slated to attend the University of Pittsburgh this fall. Rosensteel, who played soccer at Ringgold High School in Washington County, recently signed to play at West Virginia Wesleyan College.

“She was just an absolutely great, great kid,” said Rob Fabean, director of club administration for the Beadling Soccer Club. “She was a model player for the teams that I coached, never was an issue, never caused any problems, fit in with everybody, was liked by everybody.”

Fabean coached Rosensteel for most of her life, he said, but the most recent was for the Bridgeville-based club. He said one of her favorite things to do was to try new, unique restaurants with her family, and that they would always try a new pizza restaurant when the family traveled to other states for soccer.

“My heart sank” when he heard the news of her death, Fabean said. “To find out that someone is gone from something as tragic as a lightning strike, I can’t even comprehend.”

Fabean said a memorial will be scheduled in the future. Details have not yet been planned.

Ringgold School District Superintendent Megan Van Fossan said school social workers and counselors will be available Friday and Monday at the high school.

“Our deepest sympathy goes out to her family and friends,” she said.

McGowan graduated from Greensburg Central Catholic on May 29, Principal Benjamin Althof said.

“Brendan was a member of the National Honor Society and the winner of multiple scholarships and awards,” Althof said. “He was also the second baseman for our baseball team. Through all his awards, activities and accolades, he was a genuinely good person. He carried himself with a quiet confidence.”

Althof described McGowan as quiet, reserved, well-respected and well-liked.

Orndoff, who started dating McGowan shortly after prom, said he taught her how she should be treated in a relationship and what real love meant.

“I’d never been so happy in my whole life,” she said.

‘Loud crack’

According to Westmoreland County Coroner Kenneth A. Bacha, witnesses heard a loud crack and saw a large flash of light in the area where the pair were fishing.

The pair were near the spillway on the park’s lake when they were struck, county Public Works Director Greg McCloskey said. The strike occurred on a peninsula that juts out into the 24-acre lake.

Bacha said witnesses found them below a large splintered tree. He said the pair suffered injuries consistent with being struck by lightning.

The cause and manner of death were pending an autopsy to be performed Friday by Dr. Cyril H. Wecht and Pathology Associates.

Ambulances from Mt. Pleasant and Kecksburg were dispatched to the 408-acre park along Route 982 near Kecksburg.

The thunderstorm that passed through Westmoreland County at the time was “not terribly intense, but it still produced lightning,” said Matthew Kramer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Moon.

Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, [email protected] or via Twitter .

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.