Fatal lightning strikes twice in Gary

2013-09-19T19:10:00Z 2013-09-20T23:38:05Z Fatal lightning strikes twice in GaryElvia Malagon elvia.malagon@nwi.com, (219) 933-3246 nwitimes.com
September 19, 2013 7:10 pm  • 

GARY | Two people died and a baby was injured Thursday in two separate lightning-related tragedies that happened within 10 minutes.

At 11:17 a.m., a man was working on a billboard when he was struck by lightning, said Mark Jones, chief of operations for the Gary Fire Department.

The Lake County coroner's office identified the man as Angelo Santucci, 28, of Hobart. He suffered multiple burns in the 4700 block of 27th Avenue, a news release from the office stated.

Jones said Santucci went into cardiac arrest and was transported to Methodist Hospital Northlake Campus in Gary, where he was pronounced dead 12:34 p.m. The coroner's office said the cause of death is pending.

Santucci had a partner with him who tried to perform CPR. The partner was not injured.

Less than 10 minutes after that lightning strike, the Fire Department received a call about another one at a house at 1180 Jefferson Court, Jones said. The strike started a fire that engulfed about 50 percent of the home.

Jacquelyn Allen, 45, who was in the house during the lightning strike and fire, was taken to Methodist Hospital Northlake Campus in Gary. Allen, whom the coroner's office listed as a male, was transgender and went by the name Jacquelyn, a spokeswoman for the office said.

Allen was pronounced dead at 12:15 p.m. after suffering severe burns, the coroner's office said. The cause of death is pending. 

A 9-month-old child also was in the house and was transported to the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital, Jones said. The child's condition was not known Thursday.

Gary officers stood guard Thursday night over the house until officials boarded up the structure. The interior of the house was covered in soot along with the front of the house. Neighbors walked by and stopped to look at the damage.

Terrence Jennings, 26, of Gary, and Cleveland Young, 26, of Gary, were in the neighborhood Thursday morning when they said they heard a "boom."

"This big bolt came out of nowhere," Young said.

The two went to Jefferson Court to check on Jennings' mother, who lives on the same street as where the fire took place. Jennings said he saw flames coming from the front of the house on 1180 Jefferson Court and watched as firefighters rescued the residents.

"(I'm) just sorry for the family and their loss," Jennings said. "This is so sad."

He said the family has lived in the neighborhood for a couple of years, but he did not know them well.

The deaths follow a series of thunderstorms that moved through Northwest Indiana on Wednesday night into Thursday morning.

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