Lightning strike kills man, injures wife in Central Oregon - KPTV - FOX 12

Lightning strike kills man, injures wife in Central Oregon

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A husband and wife on their way home from a two-day motorcycle ride were struck by lightning after they stopped to wait out a rainstorm Sunday.

The lightning strike killed 50-year-old Bret Hemenway and injured his wife, 49-year-old Connie Hemenway. The couple owns and operates a hay farm in Madras.

"He was a wonderful person. Great family. Great farmer, great dad," said Jack Skipper, who lives next door to the Hemenway family.

He thought of Bret Hemenway as a son and described him as one of the "best operators" of hay farms in central Oregon.

"Bret, he had a pretty strong personality and he could get her done," said Skipper. He added, "And when most people are sleeping at night, he's usually out in the field."

The Hemenways were on the two-day trip during a short break between cutting hay.

According to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, the couple was returning home from their trip on Sunday afternoon, then stopped at a rest area to wait out the storm.

Once they saw there was a break in the rain, they set out again and continued heading south on Highway 97.

But when the rain resumed, the Hemenways had to seek respite again, so they took cover under a large tree near milepost 75 around 4 p.m.

While waiting out the storm, Connie Hemenway saw a blue light flash and felt extreme pain in her left arm. She was blown backwards, she said, and as she looked over at her husband, she saw him leaning against the tree and not moving.

Connie Hemenway was able to move her right arm and called 911 for help. In the meantime, she was unable to get a response from her husband.

Jefferson County sheriff's deputies and paramedics arrived seven minutes later and rushed Connie Hemenway to St. Charles Hospital in Madras to be treated for her injuries.

Paramedics tried to perform CPR on Bret Hemenway, but they were unable to revive him.

His death is devastating for family and friends.

"Gotta enjoy every day," said Skipper. "Love the people you love, because too soon, they could be gone on you."

The lightning strike happened about 20 miles north of Madras.

Connie Hemenway was treated at a Bend hospital and released. The extent of her injuries is unknown.

The National Weather Service says no one is safe outside during a lightning storm and says you should not shelter under trees.

At the first sign of lightning or thunder, the National Weather Service recommends running to a safe building or vehicle, then staying inside until 30 minutes after you hear the last clap of thunder.

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