County News: Sussex teacher killed by lightning strike, inquest told

Robin Meakings, 59, who was killed by a lightning strike while walking on a Welsh mountainside, an inquest heard today.''� WALES NEWS SERVICE 030915_Lightning_Death
Robin Meakings, 59, who was killed by a lightning strike while walking on a Welsh mountainside, an inquest heard today.''� WALES NEWS SERVICE 030915_Lightning_Death

A walker who saw his friend die from a lightning strike has relived the moment their adventure holiday turned to tragedy.

Robin Meakings, 59, from Pulborough, was working as a study supervisor and tutor at Forest School in Horsham, died while walking in the Brecon Beacons on July 5.

His friend Bill Belcher was standing only feet away when Mr Meakings he was killed by the lightning bolt.

An inquest heard the lightning struck twice - five minutes later killing Duke of Edinburgh Award leader Jeremy Prescott, 51, walking on a neighbouring peak.

Mr Belcher told how he was walking with fellow teacher Mr Meakings on the Cribyn peak in the Brecon Beacons when the bolt struck.

The pair were standing on a rock slab on the 2,400ft summit adjusting a walking pole when the flash hit.

Mr Belcher told the inquest: “There was a blue-white flash and a tremendous sound like a whip cracking.

“Robin fell backwards onto his rucksack.”

Mr Belcher told the inquest in Brecon that he was blown 20ft into the air by the blast.

Mr Belcher said: “I felt like I had been squashed and my legs were wobbly.

“I was shouting at Robin: ‘Wake up wake up!’ I was in total shock.”

Mr Belcher tried mouth to mouth resuscitation on his friend but could not find a pulse.

He said: “The lightning just came out of the blue.”

The inquest heard that fellow climber Nick Earl blacked out when he was hit. He later recovered although he was paralysed in one arm.

The three men who were on an adventure holiday in the Brecon Beacons National Park had talked about going shopping that morning instead of climbing the mountain.

Mr Belcher, of Chertsey, Surrey, said that although the two men were adjusting Mr Meakings’ walking pole, it was low down and the lightning bolt had struck Mr Meakings on the head.

He said: “The pole had nothing to do with his death.”

Fellow walker Nick Earl told how he was hit by the lightning bolt - and said: “I felt on fire inside and out.”

He was adjusting a walking pole with Robin Meakings, 59, when they were struck - and his friend was killed.

Mr Earl, 58, from Farnham, Surrey, said: “The weather was terrible with hailstones.

“I was helping Robin to adjust his walking pole when it happened.

“I felt on fire inside and out and was thrown into the air 20ft.

“I was in terrible pain and I was paralysed. I could not respond because I could not move but gradually I got the feeling back.”

Both Mr Meakings and the other fatality Mr Prescott were air lifted to hospital in a Sea King helicopter - but nothing could be done to revive them.

Youth worker ‘Jez’ Prescott was hit five minutes later on the neighbouring Corn Du mountain in July of this year.

Mr Prescott had been leading a Duke of Edinburgh award scheme exercise for 30 children when he was killed.

He and another leader Gaynor Hogart had walked to the summit to meet up with the children at a check point.

Mrs Hogart, 52, told the inquest: “He was a couple of steps in front of me and stepped onto the summit and turned around to face me.

“He was taking in the view and was just watching me come up the last steps when it happened.

“There was a bright light behind him without any warning at all.

“It was like someone had pulled aside dark curtains and switched on the light.

“Then he just fell forward and I thought he was messing about. But then I knew he had been hit by lightning.”

Mrs Hogart and several Royal Marine cadets who were training for the three peaks challenge failed to revive Mr Prescott.

The inquest heard both victims died from multiple burns. Mr Prescott’s shirt had been melted with the force of the blast.

It was told there were between 50 and 100 lightning strikes on people in Britain every year with ten deaths.

Powys Coroner Andrew Barkley said: “The fact that there were two strikes makes these cases even more remarkable.”

He gave narrative verdicts on the two men.

Mr Barkley said: They were the result of unique and exceptional weather circumstances which could not have been prevented.

“There was no warning that it was going to happen and they were completely out of the blue.”

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