Putnam County

‘Believing in God for a miracle:’ Palatka teen struck by lightning while hunting with her dad

PALATKA, Fla. — A father and his teenage daughter were struck by lightning on Tuesday evening while hunting in the woods, according to a report from the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office.

While the father, 37, and his 16-year-old daughter were in the woods in Palatka, “lightning had struck a tree, hitting them and causing them to lose consciousness,” the report said.


The father “woke up to find his daughter on the ground unconscious and not breathing,” the report said.

He put his daughter in his truck, drove back to the main road, and attempted to do CPR before first responders arrived, according to the report.

Putnam County Fire Rescue and PCSO responded to Millican and West River roads and took the girl to HCA Putnam Medical Center. She was later taken to Shands UF Hospital for further treatment, PCSO said.

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Deputies went into the woods about 1.75 miles to take photos of where the incident happened and saw “a camouflage hunting ground blind under a tree,” the report said. In the blind, they saw a bow, arrows, and a hunting folding chair.

They also saw trees that had “damage consistent with what would appear as a lightning strike.”

Deputies also saw on the hunting chair “what appeared to be a damaged/burnt area of the cloth on the leg of the chair.”

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The report identifies the girl as Baylee Holbrook and her father as Matthew Holbrook. There has been an outpouring of prayer requests for Baylee on social media. Putnam County Sheriff Gator DeLoach’s wife Jennifer shared a Facebook post showing students gathered around the flagpole at Baylee’s school, Palatka Junior Senior High School. Jennifer Gilbert DeLoach asked the community to “continue to pray for her and her family that our community loves so much!”

Panthers rallied around the flag pole for one of our own….the emotions were high, tears flowing, lots of hugs, & prayers...

Posted by Jennifer Gilbert DeLoach on Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Palatka City Commissioner and Putnam County School District Coordinator of Student Support Justin Campbell shared video from the gathering, saying in part, “We are interceding and believing in God for a miracle:”

I was honored to have witnessed this moment this morning! We are interceding and believing in God for a miracle! Continued prayers for Baylee, the Holbrook Family, and Friends!

Posted by Justin R. Campbell Sr. on Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Matthew Holbrook posted on Facebook on Tuesday night, asking for prayers for his daughter:

Pray for my baby. Every single person put your knees on the ground and pray.

Posted by Matthew Holbrook on Tuesday, September 26, 2023

PCSO said in a Facebook post, “She has proven a fighter, and our prayers extend to her, her family and friends.

The agency also took the opportunity to remind the community to be aware of the weather forecast.

“The last two days we have seen an increase in lightning strikes in our area and we want to remind our community that the forecast is predicted several more days of increased rain, thunder and lightning. Storms can come quickly and lightning can strike up to 10 miles away from any rainfall,” PCSO wrote in its Facebook post.

PCSO said a vigil will be held for Baylee at Palatka Junior-Senior High School at 6:30 p.m. Baylee remains in critical condition, deputies say.

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