Mother, Child, Friend Killed in Lightning Strike
MADISON - A routine trip to the store ended in what police called a horrific tragedy: A mother, her 2-year-old daughter and a friend who tried to rescue them were electrocuted when a downed power line fell into water.
On Thursday, a day after the deaths, police released additional details about what happened when lightning hit a utility pole and caused a live wire to fall into standing water as a group of friends waited for the bus to return to their apartment complex.
Police said Demetrius Dobbs, 22, and his fiancee were boarding the bus just as the lightning struck. When they saw their friends -- Lakisha Dancy, 28, and her daughter, Maya Reese -- fall into the water before they could board, Dobbs jumped off the bus to try to save them.
All three were electrocuted by the electrical currents traveling through the water, which was as high as the bumper of the bus as a result of a severe rainstorm that hit the area, police said.
Before the attempted rescue, Dobbs had "heroically assisted" Dancy's 7-year-old son onto the bus, police spokesman Mike Hanson said. The boy suffered a shock but should be released from a hospital Thursday or Friday, he said.
The boy tried to get off the bus to save his mother, but Dobbs' fiancee, who was still on the bus, pulled him back. The fiancee was not injured.
Police on Thursday released audio of two 911 calls from bus passengers calling for help. One of the passengers described Dancy as being face-down in a puddle of water on top of her daughter with Dobbs nearby. None of them was moving, he said.
"They're dead!" Dobbs' fiancee could be heard screaming in the background at one point. "That's my fiancee and my best friend!"
The bus driver was shocked and fell back into the bus after he tried to rescue the victims and then secured the bus so that no one else went into the water, police said.
Neighbors at the Kennedy Heights complex on Madison's north side said the friends were returning from a shopping plaza less than two miles away. The five-minute bus ride is a daily routine for many of the complex's 400 residents going to Walgreen's or Pierce's grocery store.
"It's such a bizarre, complicated, freak accident," said Alyssa Kenney, executive director of the Kennedy Heights Community Center, which runs a preschool and afterschool programs. "I think they moved here because it was safe. And now they die in an accident, a horrible accident. It's just so, so tragic and they were such a good family."
Kenney said she believed Dancy moved into the complex about a year ago and was raising four children on her own. The 7-year-old and his siblings, age 8 and 12, were being cared for by relatives, police said.
Kenney said Dobbs' fiancee, whose name police did not release, moved into the complex in the last few months with her children. Dobbs did not live there but was around from time to time, she said.
Cartrell Tolliver, 27, who was standing outside the complex on Thursday, said he knew Dancy "as a loving, caring parent who always seemed happy with her kids." He said the mother of his two young daughters often rides the bus.
"That could have been my girl and she probably would have had my newborn with her," he said. "I can only imagine what her three kids that are alive now are going through -- and they're still young."
Shannon Haff, 17, who also lives in the complex and rides the city bus, said the tragedy could have been worse.
"There was a big puddle down here last night and all the kids were playing in it," she said. "If something were to electrocute that puddle, all of them kids would have been dead. Twenty or 30 of them."
Meanwhile, Madison Metro spokeswoman Julie Maryott-Walsh said the bus driver has asked that his name not be released. She would not comment on his condition.
"This was a fatal and tragic accident, a reminder of how precious life is, and how suddenly it can be taken away," Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said in a statement. "Thanks to the heroic actions of several individuals, including the driver of the Madison Metro bus, more lives were not lost."
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)