NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

June 4, 2007

Lightning strikes police officer, son in Georgetown

GEORGETOWN - A freak storm tore through the area Saturday, striking an off-duty police officer and his son with a bolt of lightning, toppling trees and tipping canoers.



Groveland Sgt. Jeffrey Gillen and his son, Matthew, 13, were taken to Anna Jaques Hospital and then to Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston after the early evening storm. They were struck by lightning just after 7 p.m. in Georgetown, according to police. Gillen is a Georgetown resident.



Jeffrey Gillen was discharged yesterday, according to a Brigham and Women's spokeswoman. Because of his age, no information was available about Matthew.



Canoeists capsize



The Gillens were not the only people injured as a result of the storm. The Coast Guard rescued four canoeists who had capsized in the Merrimack River off Joppa Flats just before 7 p.m. because of the strong winds. They were treated at Anna Jaques for hypothermia and released.



After one canoe tipped over in the storm, the second group of canoeists attempted to right it and wound up tipping over themselves. The canoeists were not wearing life jackets or warm clothing, Petty Officer Etta Smith said.



"They got pretty chilly pretty quick," Smith said.



The Coast Guard did not have the names of the four.



Tree on house in Georgetown



For some Georgetown residents, the damage to their houses spoke to the storm's strength.



Leah Gymziak thinks the tree through her house proves the point.



"We could see through the window in the basement, the trees were swaying, the sky was pitch black, there were huge balls of hail," said Charles Street resident Leah Gymziak. "When it stopped raining we went outside, and we saw a pine tree on our house."



Saturday's storm brought tornado warnings from the National Weather Service, although officials at the Taunton office said there were no reports of a tornado actually touching down.



While the northern Newburyport area did not see strong wind gusts, according to Ray Whitley, a local weather watcher for the National Weather Service, the Georgetown-Haverhill area was hit hard.



Even a warning of tornadoes is unusual for the area, Whitley said.



"I've never seen a tornado warning before, and I've lived here since 1972," he said.



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