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48 years apart: Lightning strikes kill dad, son

July 15, 2011 3:14:38 AM PDT
The story seems almost unbelievable, but the bark blown off an old sycamore tree is a reminder this tragedy is all too real.

It was in a Hammonton backyard that 54-year-old Stephen Rooney was struck by lightning at a family barbeque July 3rd as he stepped away from the crowd to light a cigar.

The party host, Rooney's cousin and next door neighbor, Funzi Digerolamo, says a giant bolt shook the yard.

"Hit the tree, went up the tree. It electrified all through the root system of the tree at that time so he was standing right in the electric field," Digerolamo said.

Digerolamo's son Scott was blown right off a bench, but survived.

Steve Rooney died five days later.

Just before he was hit, Rooney downplayed concerns about the lightning.

"He had just said that lightning doesn't strike two people in one family right before it happened, not long before it happened, he said that," neighbor Paula Weisbecker said.

Lightning is not supposed to strike twice, but in this case it did.

Steve Rooney's father George was also killed by lightning 48 years ago when Steve was just a 5-year-old boy.

The odds of this happening to a father and son are astronomical. Everyone is stunned that a bolt of lightning could claim them both, almost 5 decades apart.

"It's hard to imagine two people in the same family getting hit by lightning. It's crazy," Paul Hoffman of Hammonton, New Jersey said.

Steve Rooney was buried today at St. Anthony of Padua Church where he served as a Eucharistric minister.

The father of two, a well-liked, funny, family man, was also an active alumnus of St. Joseph's High School. His daughters are starting a fund at the school in hopes of naming athletic fields after their dad.

"It's just a freak accident being I guess at the wrong place at the wrong time and the whole town rallied around his family," Terri Caruso-Cafiso of Hammonton said.

Friends say Steve Rooney's death is a loss to this community and proof that lightning can indeed strike twice with devastating results.


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