TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WSAV) — A teenage swimmer died Sunday after being struck by lightning on Tybee Island.
According to the city of Tybee Island, the 15-year-old was from Alabama. Her identity has not been released.
She was hit around 3:30 p.m. in the water near 17th Street.
City Manager Shawn Gillen says as soon as lifeguards saw the lightning was five miles from the area, they started clearing the beach. During that time, around 3:30 p.m., the girl was struck in the water near 17th Street.
Gillen says lifeguards were able to get to her almost immediately.
“They did not have a pulse,” the city manager explained. “They were able to get a pulse back, and then at that point, they decided to remove her off the beach so they could start the transport process.”
He explained there were a number of complicated factors that delayed the teenager from getting life-saving medical assistance.
Gillen says Chatham Emergency Services was receiving a high volume of calls at the time, and the island’s only ambulance was far away.
Officials say transport units took the victim onto Highway 80 to meet an ambulance, which was then escorted by police to a nearby landing zone for a helicopter. But a short time later, emergency medical personnel made the decision to continue the transport via ambulance.
Gillen says the teenager had no pulse when she arrived at the hospital.
“It’s heartbreaking, it really is,” he said. “I have three daughters and one is 14.”
“I can’t imagine what this family is going through,” Gillen added. “Our thoughts are with them. It’s just really heartbreaking.”
Storm Team 3 Meteorologist Alysa Carlsey says the lightning hit about 10 minutes before the main storm passed through.
She says the ocean is one of the worst places to be during a thunderstorm because it conducts electricity.
“We are going to be seeing thunderstorms almost every single day,” said Carsley, “so you are going to want to stay low to the ground if you cannot get inside or possibly go into your car, or even a structure that will help you stay safe.”