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McComb man killed by lightning while talking on phone

A McComb man struck by lightning through his telephone Saturday died early Sunday of severe burns, the Pike County coroner said.

Thomas Whittington, 64, suffered extensive burns and died about eight hours after being taken to the hospital.

Family members discovered Whittington at home barely able to breathe at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. He was taken to Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center where he died around 2:15 a.m. Sunday.

“Apparently he had been standing in the kitchen talking on his phone and lightning struck,” coroner Jason Jones said. “The burns that he had are similar to high-voltage.”

Whittington was burned from his right ear down his face to his right arm, then across his chest to his left knee, Jones said.

It was the second report of lightning striking someone through the phone in south Mississippi in less than a week.

Marie Etheridge, 14, was talking on the phone Aug. 23 when she was shocked, said her mother, Jennifer Roberts. Etheridge survived.

Roberts said the phone flew out of Etheridge’s hand and that she could feel a tingling sensation after the strike. She was examined at a hospital and released.

Roberts said she had heard that talking on the phone in the vicinity of lightning was dangerous, but didn’t heed the warnings.

“We thought that it was just a wives’ tale, too, but we take it seriously now,” she said.