BY GARFIELD MYERS EDITOR-AT-LARGE South/Central Bureau firstname.lastname@example.org
SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth - Farm workers Dwayne Gowdie and Hylton Cuff from the same yard in Georges Valley, had every reason to believe Thursday, October 10, would simply be another day of toil and sweat.
But by early afternoon 23-year-old Gowdie was dead, victim of a lightning strike, leaving behind a nine-month-old daughter Jemelia, and a grieving girlfriend, relatives and friends.
Cuff, whose daughter Monique was Gowdie's girlfriend and the mother of his child, was also struck by the lightning bolt. He survived, but only just. Cuff escaped with a temporarily incapacitated right arm and severe pains in the shoulder, neck and head.
A bleak picture of shock and loss greeted the Observer Central news team which visited Georges Valley in north east St Elizabeth last Thursday.
Cuff, in low tones, spoke of how he and Gowdie were working together erecting a wire fence at a dairy farm in nearby Cabbage Valley just before tragedy struck in the early afternoon.
Cuff said he sensed danger when the lightning flashes began at about 2:00pm and promptly called a halt to work.
"When the first lightning flash mi sey to the bredren sey, 'Come we go, we nah work inna di lightning'," he said, explaining that both left the open area to find shelter.
However, Gowdie picked up a metal tool, a claw bar, as he left -- a move which Cuff suspects proved fatal for the young man.
"Im Tek up di claw bar inna 'im han and put it on 'im shoulder..." said Cuff.
Another flash of lightning and Cuff was down. He says it took him sometime to realise that Gowdie had succumbed.
Cuff was rushed to hospital by policemen from the Balaclava station but there was no hope for Gowdie.
Weather experts say the period between April and November is most prone to deadly lightning strikes in Jamaica.
According to the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), metal -- such as Gowdie was holding -- is a good conductor of electricity and therefore very dangerous during lightning storms.
Persons struck by lightning may receive a severe electrical shock and may be burned but they carry no electrical charge and can be handled safely. A person "killed" by lightning can often be revived by prompt cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). In a group struck by lightning, the apparently dead should be treated first. Those who show vital signs will probably recover spontaneously, although burns and other injuries may require treatment. Recovery from a stroke of lightning is usually complete except for possible impairment or loss of sight or hearing.
LIGHTNING SAFETY TIPS
If you are indoors during a lightning storm
1. Stay indoors, and do not venture outside, unless it is absolutely necessary.
2. Do not stand in doorways or near open windows. Lightning can strike anywhere, and it can jump through open spaces.
3. Turn off electric breakers and disconnect appliances. Lightning is electricity and will follow electrical circuits.
4. Avoid touching electrical plugs, refrigerators, television sets, electric razors and electric hairdryers.
5. Avoid metal objects such as stoves, water pipes and sinks.
6. Do not use the telephone during the lightning storm as lightning may strike the lines outside.
7. Do not take showers and/or wash clothes or dishes during a lightning storm.
8. Do not lie flat on the ground as electrical currents can travel along the ground surface.