Lightning deaths still under investigation
Post-Tribune staff report September 20, 2013 5:36PM
This house was struck by lightning about 11:20 a.m. Thursday in 1000 block of Jefferson Court in Gary. One man died after the house caught fire. | Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 22, 2013 6:09AM
GARY — Officials are continuing to investigate lightning strikes that killed two people and left a 9-month-old girl in critical condition.
The Indiana State Fire Marshal is investigating the deaths. No one from the office returned messages left at the office on Friday.
“It’s really unique,” Gary Fire Chief of Operations Mark Jones said, “to have two lightning strikes within nine minutes and two result in fatalities.”
He said the fast-paced storm provided little warning for the Hobart man working on a bilboard near the expressway.
Angelo Santucci, 28, of Hobart, was working on a Lamar Advertising billboard at Interstate 94 near Clark Road when the bolt struck, setting the board and Santucci on fire.
Medics rushed him to the Methodist Hospitals Northlake campus where he died at 12:34 p.m. Thursday.
In the other incident, a Gary woman died after lightning struck the front of a home at 1082 Jefferson Court.
Jackie Allen died at the Methodist Hospitals Northlake campus as 12:15 p.m. from burns she suffered in the fire.
After the lightning strike, Allen and the baby went to the back door. The baby, who survived, has been identified as Ariel Johnson. She was a foster child in the care of Allen and Allen’s mother, who lived at the Gary Housing Authority home, fire officials said.
Firefighters found Allen and Ariel just inside the back door. Allen was huddled over the baby, who was flown to Comer Children’s Hospital in Chicago in critical condition, police spokeswoman Cpl. Gabrielle King said.
“She was trying to get out with the infant,” Jones said.
Fire officials estimate the damage from flames, smoke and water at about $10,000, King said.
Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson extended her condolences to both families. “Jackie’s family can take a lot of solace that she gave her life for that baby.”
Lamar Advertising replied by email to a request for comment from the Post-Tribune, saying the company “is deeply saddened by the death of Angelo Santucci. Angelo had been with Lamar for just over one year as an operations employee. We extend our condolences to his wife, children, other family members and friends. Lamar is conducting an internal investigation into the circumstances of Angelo’s death and is cooperating with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in its investigation.”