Seymour lightning strike prompts review of high school sports policies

Emily Bobb
Published: .
Updated: .

Spring sports in Indiana bring renewed calls for safety when it comes to severe weather.

Thursday, a member of Seymour High School's girls softball team was hit by lightning. Three other members of the Lady Owls were also treated.

Seymour school Superintendent Dr. Teran Armstrong says there were no signs of lightning before the bolt jolted freshman Emily Bobb, who was at second base.

What happened in Seymour Thursday did not result in any school violations, but it is a critical reminder for coaches all across Indiana to look out for potential danger in spring storms miles away.

The 911 call reveals a high school athlete in trouble.

"There's a girl hit by lightning at the high school softball field," said the female on the phone calling for help moments after Emily Bobb went down on second base.

Three of her teammates with the Lady Owls felt a twinge of electricity too.

"We all felt it, we all felt it," said two members of the Lady Owl's after those frightening moments.

But Emily wasn't moving. She took a direct hit.

Chiropractor Dr. Levi Nehrt just happened to glance out his office window just across the street from the Seymour High School softball field. What he saw sent him running.

"I saw her get hit and she just kind of went straight to the ground," said Dr. Nehrt.

He left his patient on the exam chair, and scaled a fence more than five feet tall.

"She was just engulfed in light and then as soon as the bolt hit the ground and hit her, thunder hit and you couldn't hear anything," Dr. Nehrt recalled. "She was not breathing when I got there. She was turning blue, heartbeat was very, very shallow," he said describing those first critical moments.

The doctor, Emily's teammates and school officials all say there were no warnings: no rain, no thunder, and no lightning before the bolt hit.

The Indiana High School Athletic Association has guidelines in place for severe weather. At the first sign of lightning or thunder all play must stop. Then the 30-minute rule kicks in.

"You cannot resume until 30 minutes after the last sighting of the last lightning," Kaufman explained. "We had to evacuate Victory Field one year. We had a big storm coming in," he said, referring to a boy's high school baseball final.

Chris Kaufman says that's just one part of the rule.

He says coaches must monitor forecasts because lightning can strike from 10 to 20 miles away.

"We're always nervous about that because that can happen at any moment, and so the policy and procedures are in place are vitally important," Kaufman told Eyewitness News. "They need to look at the national weather service, look at the radar, monitor the situation," added Kaufman.

Dr. Levi Nehrt knows the rules. He's also an experienced track coach. On Thursday, his athletic and medical abilities all came together to save Emily Bobb's life.

"Just very thankful to God that I happen to be looking out the window at the time she got struck by lightning," he said.

Superintendent Armstrong said she was pleased at how the incident was handled, but says the high school athletic director will investigate to see what other districts are doing to keep athletes safe at even greater levels.

Kaufman said there's nothing to warrant an investigation by the IHSAA, but are reminding coaches to be on alert this spring. "We're just glad that all of the students are okay," Kaufman said.