Smithville lightning strike hits close to home for woman who lost her husband in storm

SMITHVILLE, Mo. -- A woman badly injured by a lightning bolt in Smithville is at home recovering.

On Monday, the park rangers who helped save her life were honored for their quick actions -- actions a Maryville woman said might have saved her husband last year after he was struck by lightning. She said seeing the recent story out of Smithville hits too close to home.

"It brought up a lot of pain," Miranda Browning said.

It was pain Browning felt less than a year ago when her husband was struck and killed by lightning.

"Having somebody there every day and then to turn around and in one second he's gone," Browning said crying.

The 35-year-old father of four was fishing at the water treatment plant in Maryville. Browning said the lightning strike itself didn't kill him. He went into cardiac arrest. Only to be found after the storm had passed.

"If he would have had somebody there immediately to get him medical attention, as soon as it happened, he could have been saved," Browning said.

That was the case for a 55-year-old woman who suffered severe burns in May from a lightning bolt near Smithville Lake.

"I saw a flash, which was the lightning," Clay County Park Cpl. Sean Benjamin said. "Right across from where I was sitting it caught my attention."

Although the woman and her husband were in a hidden area, Benjamin said he found them within minutes -- likely saving her life.

"That's one of our jobs is knowing the area and knowing all those hiding spots," Benjamin said.

Ranger Melissa Mahoney stayed with the woman while Benjamin guided emergency responders to the right spot.

An emergency responder said to the woman, "Your neck is gonna burn. Everything's gonna burn. Sweetie, you just got one of the biggest bolts of your life."

"Lightning is something that is -- it's tricky because you can get hit by lightning and survive like she did," Browning said, "or you can get hit by lightning and pass away like my husband did."

Although Browning doesn't know the woman, she thanks the rangers for their quick response. Because Browning knows all too well the heartbreak of losing someone you love in a flash.

"I'm so happy that she survived," Browning said, "because I know the hurt and the rawness and the shock and the pain that goes along with any death that was so unplanned."

The two park rangers received honors Monday morning from Clay County leaders for their excellent response leading to a life saved.

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