By Tara Vreeland, The News On 6
STILLWATER, OK -- Florida is known as the lightning capital of the country because it has the highest death rates from lightning in the United States. There were about six people on the beach that experienced the static from the lightning bolt, but one Ripley, Oklahoma man was directly hit and killed.
Fifty-four year old Frank Paxton was vacationing with his family in Florida. Eyewitnesses said they felt the current from the lightning strike during a storm Wednesday afternoon. This evening, his co-workers are dealing with the shock of the death of their friend.
"Frank was a wonderful person to work with. You couldn't ask for a better co-worker," said Danny Driskel, Paxton's supervisor.
Frank Paxton worked for nearly 30 years as an electrician for the Oklahoma State University dorms.
"I gave him a work evaluation probably about two months ago and I told him, ‘Frank, you've done everything I've ever asked from you this year, and he said ‘you know why don't you?'
"I said why? He said because I love my job. Said it makes a difference."
Danny Driskel was stunned to learn of his co-worker's sudden and tragic death.
"I got reports from some people who are around this area that he was hit by lightning, and they didn't look for him to make it," Driskel said.
Paxton and his family were swimming at Cocoa Beach in Florida when a storm quickly rolled in.
The life guard blew the whistle for the swimmers to get out of the water. Paxton and his family were gathering their belongings to leave when a lightning bolt struck the place they were standing and knocked them to the ground.
"We had just gotten on the beach, and it just started pouring and it just cracked on the guy. It was pretty scary," said an eyewitness.
Paxton suffered a direct hit to his shoulder. The electricity went the length of the right side of his body and likely took his life instantly. His family started CPR, and the paramedics did the same, but they were unsuccessful in reviving him.
Paxton's wife and 19-year-old son were treated for minor burn injuries.
"They are about like us. They are just in shock right now. They just can't believe it happened," said Danny Driskel, Paxton's supervisor at OSU.
Driskel says Paxton had a strong faith. And that Paxton personally told him that he looked forward to the day when he would be in heaven.
"He will be missed here and will be almost impossible to replace," Driskel said.
Drixel says he and his co-workers are a tight knit group and that he expects they all will attend Paxton's funeral when arrangements are made.