Fundraising drive as lightning strike family try and ‘bear up’

The scene of the lightning strike
The scene of the lightning strike

Thousands of pounds has been raised for a family which this week saw three of its members hospitalised due to a lightning strike.

As midnight approached on Wednesday, the online fund which had been started that same day had already soared past the £2,600 mark, with the aim of using the cash to aid the Allen family with “day to day” costs following the incident.

A minister from the Ballymacash area of Lisburn, where is is understood the family are based, said that relatives of the victims were “bearing up” as best as could be expected.

At time of writing, George Allen – believed to be in his mid-30s – remained in a critical condition in the Ulster Hospital after being struck by the lightning bolt at around 2pm at a Killowen Primary School sports day on Tuesday.

His five-year-old son was also critical, whilst his seven-year-old daughter was stable.

Both children were in thechildren’s wing of Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital.

The fundraising drive was started by Lisburn man Jonny Corry on Wednesday, who wrote online that George is “well-known in our local community”.

He added: “We would like to raise some funds for the family to help with bills and every day costs during this difficult time. We are all praying they make a full and speedy recovery.”

Donations ranged from a few pounds per person, to a lump sum of £100 given by one individual.

Anglican minister Rev Ken Gamble, from St Mark’s Church in Ballymacash, visited the family at the Ulster Hospital last night, including George’s wife Sharon.

He suggested some members may be maintaining a “vigil” there.

“I was just with them this evening just to offer them any support and encouragement and comfort one could do.

“They’re bearing up as well as one could under the circumstances. But obviously it’s still very traumatic for them.”

He reassured them that “they were very much in everybody’s thoughts and prayers – both the local church and the wider community”.

Roger Thompson, one of Killowen’s governors, told the BBC on Wednesday there was a sense of “emptiness” at the school.

The loyalist Ballymacash Cultural Awareness Project had written on Tuesday that its members were in “complete shock” following the accident.

Writing on Facebook, the group said: “The father has volunteered his time building our bonfire over the past number of years.

“The family involved are well-known within our community and our thoughts go out to his family and kids involved. Keep fighting mate.”

Trevor Lunn, Lagan Valley Alliance MLA, was among the voices wishing the family well.

He said: “It’s just an awful thing to happen. You read about these things around the world, but you don’t expect it to happen in a school playground in Northern Ireland.

“Mother nature can be very cruel. It’s just an unbelieveable thing to happen in Northern Ireland.”

He added that he “hoped and prayed” those affected would make a full recovery.

A paper published in 2014 by the Royal Meteorological Society (written by Derek Elsom and Jonathan Webb) looked into the question of just how many people in the UK are hit by lightning per year.

The authors tried to compile details of all strikes from 1988 to 2012, based on press reports, medical journals, and some other sources.

They found that an average of 18 people are hit annually – however,they stressed this was an underestimate.

The authors note that while a bolt of lightning carries a huge voltage, it “has contact with a person for only milliseconds” – that is, for mere thousandths of one second.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents meanwhile gives different figures, saying that, in Britain, between 30 and 60 people are struck per year – and that between five and 10 per cent of strikes are fatal.

To visit the fundraising site, click here.