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Family Mourns Son Killed by Lightning

Family Mourns Son Killed by Lightning

Posted - Jul. 18, 2004 at 9:14 p.m.



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Tonya Papanikolas Reporting One family continues to try to cope today with a deadly effect of last night's storm. Lightning struck two brothers who were at a family reunion in West Valley City, killing one of them. A lot of the kids nearby felt the jolt.

The family is having a hard time, but they have a lot of family for support. Many of them have been at the hospital. In addition to the victim and his brother, five other young people were taken there to be checked out. It looks like all of them are going to be okay. Unfortunately, they will remember the events of last night for a long time.

Soni Sotele, Cousin Struck by Lightning: “It was raining and we were just playing in the rain."

Ben Leaaetoa, Cousin Struck by Lightning: “Everyone decided to go run up to the hill to go slide. I was ahead of Marion, and I turned around and saw him running up the hill."

J.J. Leaaetoa, Cousin Struck by Lightning: “We seen lightning everywhere, but we was just having fun. We weren't thinking that it would happen."

Last night around 8:00, about 20 kids and teens were at a family gathering, sliding down a wet hill at Hunter Park when the lightning hit closer than they could have ever imagined.

Ben Leaaetoa: “I heard a loud boom. I looked around and all my little cousins were on the floor. Then I seen, I looked forward and he was on the floor."

16-year-old Marion Toko was the first up the hill and at the highest point when he was struck by lightning.

JJ Leaaetoa: “After it happened everybody just started to panic, didn't know what to do."

The lightning arced and Marion's 18-year-old brother, Mone, took a shock as well. He fell over backwards and slid down the hill. But he was able to get up and walk around. He and Marion were taken to the hospital. Mone was treated and released this morning, but Marion did not survive.

Now his cousins are remembering how special he was.

Ben Leaaetoa: “Marion, he liked to play around a lot. He was always one to laugh."

Soni Sotele: “We had fun with him, and he was strong and funny and stuff."

Marion was a junior at Bountiful High school. He played football there as a tight end, even started his sophomore year. He was one of nine children.

One of his sisters was still in the hospital today, along with three cousins. Everybody should be going home by tomorrow morning.

Last year 44 people across the U.S. were killed by lightning, including four right here in Utah. Experts say it's best to take cover as soon as you see or hear it.

Dr. Linke Hebrew, Emergency Room Physician: "People should get indoors, get down from high places, get down from exposed places. They should not be under trees."

More tips: avoid water, metal objects, and small shelters. A car is a good place to be, but shut the windows completely. Also, stay away from doors, windows, and do not use the telephone or even head sets if possible.

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