Archive for Wednesday, July 6, 2005

7-year-old girl survives strike from lightning

July 6, 2005

Kaylee Shriner was lucky to be alive.

About 8:15 a.m. Thursday, lightning struck the Shriner home in the 100 block of East Third Street. The lightning hit the roof, then traveled down metal edging in a wall in the girls' bedroom. The lightning then caused the mattress of a twin bed -- in which 7-year-old Kaylee was sleeping -- to catch fire.

Kristen was about 8 feet away in her own twin bed when Kaylee's mattress caught on fire.

The sisters ran downstairs to tell their parents, Trent and Kyla, that Kaylee's bed was on fire. Trent and Kyla were with their 16-month-old son, Mason, when the lightning struck.

"Smoke was coming off her (Kaylee's) hair," Trent Shriner said. "She has frizzy hair and it was puffed with smoke. She had soot on her face and Sheetrock in her hair."

Trent and Kyla ran upstairs and tried to put out the mattress fire. When it didn't go out, Trent Shriner said he realized he wouldn't have time to break the windows and throw it outside. So he grabbed the mattress and carried it down a flight of stairs, through the kitchen and living room and out the door.

As he moved the mattress through the house, the circulating air intensified the fire. By the time he reached the front door, the burning mattress had ignited dozens of small fires where it touched the carpet. His wife followed, putting out the fires. Once outside, Shriner dropped the mattress on the front lawn, where a steady rain was falling.

Shriner wound up with burns on his legs where the mattress materials melted and dripped onto him. He also had burns on his arms from carrying the mattress. But Shriner said he wasn't worried about his injuries -- he said he was just thankful his daughter had survived the lightning strike.

The father of three summed up his feelings in five words.

"Just happy," Shriner said, fighting back tears. "She's very lucky."

The lightning left a gaping hole in the bedroom ceiling where it entered the room. It also melted an electrical cord plugged into an outlet near the bed. And it damaged Kaylee's favorite stuffed animal, Snow, a unicorn.

But Friday morning, Trent Shriner said one of the most surprising things about the lightning strike -- other than the fact that his daughters lived through it -- was that a couple battery-operated pinball machines in the girls' bedroom that had had dead batteries in them suddenly lit up again. On Friday morning, one of the pinball games -- the one closest to where the strike had hit the house -- was still glowing.

National story

Local television networks swarmed to Tonganoxie to interview Kaylee and her family. Kaylee's story wasn't just the talk of the Kansas City metro area -- Monday, she was interviewed on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Kyla said being on national television was quite an experience.

"Oh yeah, it was extremely exciting," she said. "She (Kaylee) was excited. She was telling everybody. Daddy was excited. He was telling everybody."

Kaylee had to wake up about 5 a.m. to get ready for the interview.

When the interview took place, cameras showed Kaylee and her family from Kaylee's bedroom.

Television crews arrived at the house for the interview, which took place about 6:40 a.m. via satellite. The segment then was televised about 7:20 a.m.

"She wasn't near as joyful and excited as she was before," Kyla said.

As Kyla added, her daughter was understandably nervous being on national television.

"I was up the whole entire night," Kaylee said, noting she was so excited she couldn't sleep. "I was tired. I was very tired."

Kaylee's time in the public eye didn't end with the appearance on ABC.

Kyla said Monday they had two interviews Tuesday at Kansas City radio stations.

Grandparents' reactions

The lightning knocked out the family's electricity for about four hours that day. During that time, the family stayed with Trent's mother, who lives just to the northeast in the same block.

Trent's mother, Janice Shriner, recalled when the lightning struck.

"I just heard the big lightning bolt," she said. "I thought it hit the transformer."

When Kaylee's other grandmother, Donieta McVay, learned of the news, she rushed from Leavenworth to see her granddaughter.

"Nobody can explain the feeling that goes through you," McVay said. "The good Lord was looking over us today.

"I don't know what I would have done if this would have been any worse. What else do you have on this Earth, really, without your family?"

Another strike nearby

Lightning didn't strike the same place twice Thursday morning, but it was eerily close.

Roughly an hour after lightning jolted the Shriner's home at 8:15 a.m., lightning struck the Friends Church on Fourth Street, about a block southeast of the Shriner's home.

With Tonganoxie firefighters still at the Shriner's residence, the second bolt hit the church. Firefighters obviously were able to respond quickly to the second strike, which caused minimal damage to the church roof.

Safe and sound
As Kyla said, one would think being in one's home early in the morning would be the safest place to be when lightning hits.

Thursday's events proved that on a rare occasion even a home can be susceptible to lightning's fury.

Luckily, Kaylee survived the situation. Although Monday was Independence Day, Kaylee was trying to take it easy while other children her age were celebrating the firecracker-filled holiday.

Kaylee did say Monday afternoon she planned to shoot some fireworks, but not too many.

"Oh yeah, the little ones," Kaylee said. "But not the big ones."

After all, that lightning storm Thursday was a firework that provided plenty of excitement in Tonganoxie.

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