Monday, September 04, 2000

Lightning hits friends; one dies

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        In the aftermath of being struck by lightning, Andrew Mitchell of Cheviot felt out-of-sorts and had a headache Sunday. But grief overwhelmed everything — grief from the loss of his best friend since kindergarten, James E. Metz Jr., who was killed Saturday during the same lightning strike.

        Mr. Metz, who was 21, and Mr. Mitchell shared a home at 3700 Marydell Place, Cheviot. On Saturday, they were catering on behalf of Skyline Chili at a birthday party in the 3300 block of Algus Lane, Green Township.

        Michele and Darryl Skeen planned the birthday party for their 16-year-old son, Tom.

        At 6 p.m., 50 to 60 people were getting ready to eat at a table set up in the back yard, Mr. Skeen said.

        The weather appeared stable, with thunder off in the distance, but it looked as though it might rain soon, Mrs. Skeen said. Then, with no warning, lightning struck one of the pine trees.

        The lightning traveled down the tree, striking Mr. Metz and Mr. Mitchell, according the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.

        The Skeens compared the sound to 10 sticks of dynamite being set off.

        “Someone yelled, "Omi god, the two guys are down,'” Mrs. Skeen said.

        While someone else called 911, Mr. Skeen and a friend applied CPR and heart massage to Mr. Metz.

        Minutes later, the men were transported to Mercy Franciscan Hospital-Western Hills, where Mr. Metz was pronounced dead. Mr. Mitchell was treated at the hospital and released.

        On Sunday, Mr. Mitchell sat in the apartment he had shared with his friend trying to comprehend the loss.

        “I'm doing as fine as can be expected,” Mr. Mitchell said.

        Despite the tragedy, Mr. Mitchell and the Skeens said they felt a larger loss of life had been avoided.

        “In about another 15 seconds, there would've been another 15 to 20 people in line” to eat dinner, Mr. Skeen said.

        Saving lives had been Mr. Metz's career goal, Mr. Mitchell said. Mr. Metz had received his Emergency Medical Technician certifica tion the day he died, his friend said.

        He wanted to be a firefighter.

        Mr. Mitchell said he hoped people remembered his friend for the thoughtful, caring person he was.

        “I don't want people to feel sad,” Mr. Mitchell said. “He was a remarkable person. My God. I'm thankful he was part of my life for that long.”

        Funeral arrangements are pending.


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