A 40-year-old man from Tennessee was killed on July 14 when he was struck by lightning just as he finished mowing his mother’s lawn, PEOPLE confirms.
Despite the rain coming down as he used his riding lawn mower to cut the last patch of grass at his mother’s house in Somerville, Darrell Hoskins was determined to get the job done. Hoskins continued to work in the rain as thunder sounded off in the distance, mowing as he listened to music through the earbuds connected to his smartphone, FOX 13 reports.
“He had just a little bit of grass left, and it started sprinkling,” his cousin, Stephanie Skelton, told WMC.
Then, in a blink of an eye, the widowed father of two was dead.
As Hoskins rode the lawnmower, a lightning bolt struck a nearby tree, arced, and hit Hoskins, killing him instantly, Captain Ricky Wilson of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department told PEOPLE.
“It just bounced off and got him in the back of the head,” Hoskins’ brother, Ken Hoskins, told WMC. “I mean he didn’t even know it was coming.”
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According to the news outlet, Hoskins’s niece and 8-year-old daughter allegedly were the first to find his body after the strike. The two children tried to use his smartphone to call emergency services, but with the device broken — likely from the lightning — the two had to run three houses down to a neighbor’s home to call 911.
“It’s just a freak accident, one of those things you read about,” Barbara Steward, Hoskins’ aunt, told WREG. “They said it was a small cloud that just popped up overhead. Just a couple pops of lightning and that was it.”
She added: “It was unreal. I know you use that word all the time, but it was like it wasn’t real. Still isn’t.”
The United States experiences about 25 million lightning strikes a year, which kill an average of 47 people annually, reports the National Weather Service. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says men are much more likely to be hit by lightning than women, as they make up some 85 percent of fatalities.
So far through 2018, there have been 15 deaths by lightning strikes reported in the country, the NWS says.
Victims who survive lightning strikes can experience cardiac arrest, severe burns, hearing loss and neurological afflictions that may lead to personality changes, mood swings and memory loss.
The family recently set up a GoFundMe page to help raise funds to pay for Hoskins funeral expenses, and to help his daughter. The donation page has raised more than $2,600 in four days.
In an obituary page, it was revealed that Hoskins was a longtime wrestling fan and enjoyed target shooting and finding things at flea markets. His wife of six years, Amy Jo Reeves Hoskins, died in 2011.
“Darrell had the sweetest, gentlest spirit,” his aunt, Steward, told WREG. “Everyone loved him and he loved everybody.”