2 high school grads remembered after deadly Mammoth Park lightning strike
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.
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.
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 .