A Stillwater girl who wanted to enjoy a burst of warm summer rain Tuesday was struck by lightning and rushed to a hospital, where she died within hours.
Taylor Zimmerman, 14, had just changed into a swimsuit at her home at 1016 Sixth St. S. as thunderstorms rolled into the Twin Cities about 3 p.m.
While a friend hesitated on the porch, Zimmerman ran into the rain, urging her friend to join her, police said. As the rain fell and the wind picked up, Zimmerman took shelter under a large tree in her front yard.
Neighbors heard what happened next.
“All of a sudden — boom!” said Art Willemsen, who lives a half-block away.
Other neighbors said their houses shook as though they had been struck by a truck.
Police said lightning coursed through the tree and knocked Zimmerman down.
“The lightning turned red when it hit the tree, and you saw all this stuff flying,” said next-door neighbor Mary Ridgway, who was on her computer and had a view of the tree through a window.
However, a covered swing set blocked her view of the tree’s base, where Zimmerman had fallen.
Ridgway’s other next-door neighbor ran out of her house and saw the girl lying motionless beside the tree. Its trunk was scarred by the lightning, and the lawn was covered with splinters. She called 911.
Within minutes, Stillwater police Sgt. Chris Felsch and another officer rushed to the scene. The girl had no pulse, and for about a minute, the officers tried unsuccessfully to
revive her until paramedics arrived.
Felsch said Zimmerman’s mother, identified by neighbors as Kristal Ann Zimmerman, 40, was at the scene and left with her daughter in the ambulance.
Neighbors said the girl had two younger sisters and that the family had just moved into the house a few months ago.
Felsch said he received a report that paramedics had restarted Zimmerman’s heart on the way to the hospital. But officials with Gillette Children’s Hospital in St. Paul released a statement
from the family about 8 p.m., saying the girl had died.
“The family of Taylor Zimmerman … wants to thank people for their support and share that their daughter was a wonderful girl who will be missed tremendously,” the statement said.
The National Weather Service said lightning is the most common deadly weather threat and that the outdoors is the most dangerous place to be during a lightning storm. The weather service advises that when you hear thunder or see lightning, you should quickly move indoors or take shelter in a hard-topped vehicle and remain there until the storm passes.
Particularly, the weather service said not to take shelter under an isolated tree or the tallest trees in the area.
The storm front, which brought heavy rain, lightning and hail to east-central Minnesota, largely dissipated in the metro area by 7 p.m.
Tad Vezner can be reached at 651-228-5461.
Recent lightning strikes in the region include:
July 2005: Three men are struck in a Somerset, Wis., campground; they recover. Earlier that summer, a construction worker was hit during a thunderstorm while he was working on a new Wisconsin 64 bypass bridge near Somerset.
May 2002: A man is struck outside a Cub Foods supermarket in Blaine after reportedly opening an umbrella.
July 2001: A lightning strike injures 23 soldiers at the Camp Ripley military reservation.
August 2000: Two men are struck while returning to the campsite after Ozzfest in Somerset. One dies, the other is critically injured. Three other people also are struck at the same campground; they survive.