Lightning strike kills 18-year-olds at Mammoth Park in Mt. Pleasant Twp. |

Lightning strike kills 18-year-olds at Mammoth Park in Mt. Pleasant Twp.

Joe Napsha | Tribune-Review
Officials say two people died after being struck by lightning at Mammoth Park in Mt. Pleasant Township on Thursday, June 13, 2019.
Mammoth Park lake, site of lightning strike that killed two people Thursday afternoon.

Authorities have identified a man and woman, both 18, who died Thursday afternoon in a lightning strike at Mammoth Park in Mt. Pleasant Township.

Brendan A. McGowan of Eastview Drive, North Huntingdon, and Kaitlyn E. Rosensteel of Chestnut Street, Donora, were pronounced dead at the scene about an hour after the strike was reported just before 4 p.m.

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 the man and woman 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.

Funeral arrangements for the pair were pending.

Ambulances from Mt. Pleasant and Kecksburg were dispatched to the 408-acre park, which is 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 Township. Thunderstorms in the region were over by mid-evening, he said, adding, “A large region of showers and cooler air will move through overnight.”

The National Weather Service reported two previous fatal lightning strikes in the United States this year. One man was killed May 3 while camping near Junction, Texas; another was killed while riding a motorcycle June 3 in Ormond Beach, Fla.

The last reported fatal lightning strike in Pennsylvania occurred on Aug. 13, 2016, claiming a 39-year-old man who was swimming in a Carbon County lake.

Boy Scout leader John Magyar, 56, of Eighty Four died as a result of a lightning strike in June 2001 in Fairfield Township. Lightning struck a pine tree and then Magyar during a junior leader training event at Camp Twin Echo. Another scoutmaster and three Boy Scouts were injured.

At least 20 lightning-related fatalities were reported nationally last year.

They were among 301 from 2008 to 2018 — for an average of about 28 per year. The most annual deaths recorded during that period were 40, in 2016.

The victims included 236 men and 65 women.

Florida led in fatal strikes — with 47 — from 2008 through 2017, according to National Weather Service data. Texas was second, with 20.

There were none reported during those years in Pennsylvania.

Based on the media reports, many of the victims were either headed to safety at the time of the fatal strike or were just steps away from safety, according to the National Lightning Safety Council.

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