The unimaginable happened Saturday afternoon near the Blue Ridge Parkway, when two people were struck by lightning. And yet, as unbelievable as that sounds, miraculously, it seems both are going to make a full recovery.
Those struck by lightning were District Court Judge Roy Wijewickrama and a mother during a camping trip with a cub scout pack.
The lightning strike happened around 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Balsam Mountain Campground in the the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is located above 5,000 feet off the Parkway between Maggie Valley and Cherokee.
“They were on a family camping trip for the Boy Scouts,” said Wijewickrama’s brother, David.
A sudden thunderstorm hit the ridge-top campground. As the pack leaders and parents were getting children to safety, lightning struck two vehicles with four people inside. Those inside the vehicles were uninjured, but Roy and the mother who were standing outside the vehicles were knocked to the ground.
The other parents on the camping trip rendered first aid to the victims, got the children into a secure location, and transported the two victims to Haywood Regional Medical Center. Roy was transferred to Mission Hospital, where he is in stable condition.
“They just wrapped him up, put him in a vehicle and got him there as fast as they could,” David said. “Miraculously, he will heal from the injuries.”
The mother is expected to make a full recovery, as well.
David said he found out about the horrific incident via a phone call from Roy’s wife, Jodi.
“She said, ‘you need to get the hospital right now,’” he said.
Jodi was on the camping trip along with the couple’s two children, and followed in a separate vehicle to the hospital. Cell reception in the remote Heintooga area is spotty, so it was quicker for cub scout parents to evacuate the victims themselves than call an ambulance and wait for it to get there.
The pack was down two vehicles, however, which were fried by the lightning strike.
David said he is incredibly thankful for the actions of the people around his brother, as well as everyone who is keeping his family in their thoughts.
“He is the luckiest human being alive,” he said. “We’re thankful for everybody prayers and kind thoughts.”