LISTEN: 911 caller reports lightning strike on woman who was 9 months pregnant

A baby delivered prematurely after his mother was struck by lightning last month in Fort Myers died this week, the youngest victim of the random killer since at least 2006.

Meghan Davidson, 26, was nine months pregnant when she was struck June 29 while walking in her neighborhood. She was released from the hospital last week, but the National Weather Service reported her son, Owen Davidson, died Wednesday. The Lee County Medical Examiner confirmed the death Friday.

The death is the sixth this year related to lightning and the fourth in Florida.

Related: Florida’s summer thunderstorms are unique, deadly.

Lightning strikes south of Belvedere Road near I-95 in West Palm Beach on July 9, 2009. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)

John Jensenius, a lightning expert with the National Weather Service, said the incident is unusual in that it’s rare for a pregnant woman to be struck by lightning, and in past cases when they have been struck, both the mother and unborn baby have died.

In 2012, a Pennsylvania woman, who was nine months pregnant, was struck and killed by lighting while picking blackberries in the woods. Her unborn baby also died. An earlier case occurred in 1988 when a 22-year-old New York woman, who was eight months pregnant, was killed talking on the telephone when lighting struck the phone lines outside her house. Her baby also died.

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“We do not know how the fetus is affected by lightning, but we have a special case here in that the child’s injury may not have been from lightning, but from a lack of oxygen as the mother was in cardiac arrest,” said Mary Ann Cooper, a doctor who specializes in lighting-related injuries and professor emerita at the University of Illinois Department of Emergency Medicine. “It depends on how long the mother was in cardiac arrest and how long it took to deliver the child.”

Cooper said the only immediate cause of death from a lightning strike is cardiac arrest.

Related: Lightning kills randomly, know myth from fact.

In a 911 call made after Meghan Davidson was struck by lightning, the caller says witnesses can’t find a pulse and can’t tell if she’s breathing, but he also said she was moving around at one point.

Another 911 caller said Davidson was walking in the street under cloudy skies, but that it wasn’t raining or stormy at the time.

“Then all of a sudden there was a flash of lightning,” the neighbor told the 911 operator. “It startled my son.”

Lightning can strike from 10 miles away, meaning even sunny skies when a storm is imminent are still dangerous.

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Jensenius said the six lightning-related deaths this year are far below the average of 16 deaths that is normal for mid-July.

But three of Florida’s four deaths have occurred in the past two weeks, highlighting the increased danger during summer months. Most lightning deaths occur in July, followed by June and August.

Other lightning safety facts include:

• A car with a metal roof is good shelter from lightning, but not because of the rubber tires. If lightning strikes the car, it will be conducted by the metal around and into the ground. A convertible does not offer the same protection.

• Lightning tends to strike the tallest object in an area, so trees are not safe places to seek shelter.

• A person injured by lightning is not electrified. Victims typically die of cardiac arrest. People who can administer CPR will not be electrocuted if they do so.

Florida led the nation in lightning deaths between 2007 and 2016 with 51 people killed. That’s twice as many as second-place Texas, which had 21 deaths. Arizona had the third highest number of deaths at 15.

Florida’s rank correlates with its storm activity. The state is tops in the nation for the number of days per year with thunderstorms, ranging from 80 along the coast to 100 in a more central region west of Lake Okeechobee.

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