By Alton Mitchell
An evening of boating on a popular area lake turned tragic for one Chambers County man and despite the efforts of his friends to save his life the power of nature proved to overcome the efforts of friends and claim the life of a Valley man.
According to information released by the Lee County Coroner’s Office 34-year-old Toby Burrow of Valley was boating on Lake Harding near the Lee and Chambers County line on Friday Evening. A pop-up summertime thunderstorm sprung up over the lake catching Burrow and four friends off guard on the 5,850 acre lake. Upon noticing the storm the five men began to head for the safety of land.
As the men raced towards land a lightning bolt from the approaching thunderstorm came down and struck the boat and Burrow. The boat became disabled in the water from the lightning strike. According to the Lee County Coroner’s Office friends of Burrow began CPR on the disabled vessel to attempt to revive their friend. Two other occupants of the boat jumped into the waters of Lake Harding which have an average depth of 33 feet, but maximum depths of 111 feet. The two men in the water swam the boat back to land.
At 8:13 p.m. Friday night Lee County 911 received a call reporting that a person had been struck by a lightning bolt on Lake Harding. Emergency crews were dispatched from the Lee County Sheriff’s Department, East Alabama Medical Center EMS, and Beulah Volunteer Fire and Rescue. Emergency crews met with the boaters in the area of Lee Road 273 and assessed the condition of Burrow who had no signs of life when emergency crews arrived to him.
Rescuers rushed Burrow to East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika. Upon arrival at the hospital he was pronounced dead at 9:35 p.m. CST. The Coroner’s office reports it appears he died as a result of severe injuries caused as a result of the lightning strike. Two of the occupants of the boat also sought medical attention on their own, but were ok. The other two occupants did not seek any medical attention.
Lee County Coroner Bill Harris states that this is the first lightning strike death he can recall in Lee County in the last three decades. The death of Burrow marks the eighth lightning death in the United States in 2017. Other deaths have been reported in Colorado, Texas, North Carolina, and four deaths in Florida.
There have been other lightning strike incidents in Alabama in 2017. The latest occurred on Monday afternoon near Birmingham. An 11-year-old boy was struck by lightning while fishing off a dock in Vestavia Hills. The unidentified child was transported to a local hospital and is expected to be ok. Last Monday three donkeys were killed in Chilton County after being struck by lightning.
Burrow was laid to rest on Monday July 24, 2017 at Shady Grove Cemetery. He was a 2001 graduate of Valley High School and a 2003 graduate of Southern Union Community College. Those who knew Burrows remember him as a man who loved the outdoors, golfing, fishing, and was a diehard University of Alabama Football fan. The investigation of the death of Burrow is still under investigation by members of the Lee County Sheriff’s Department and the Lee County Coroner’s Office.