Lightning apparently claimed the lives of two people found dead Wednesday afternoon under a tree in St. Joseph Cemetery in Batavia following a thunderstorm earlier that morning, Batavia police said.
Richard T. Garlock, 34, of Newstead, and Jenea M. Macleod, 32, of Corfu, suffered from injuries consistent with being struck by lightning, according to the Erie County medical examiner, though the cause of death is still pending further tests.
Lightning struck the area sometime between 2:30 and 2:45 a.m. Wednesday, when a storm passed through the area, the National Weather Service said.
Both Garlock and Macleod were arrested last August in Bergen on drug charges, including possession of heroin and crack cocaine, along with hypodermic needles and other drug paraphernalia. The Batavian reported that a drug overdose was under investigation as possible cause before the injuries were determined to be consistent with lightning.
The number of lightning deaths across the United States this year stood at 22 through Aug. 5, according to the National Weather Service. None occurred in the northeastern United States.
An average of 31 people died annually from lightning strikes between 2006 and 2015, according to weather service data.
Locally, lightning struck a metal tent pole at Darien Lake Theme Park and Campground in July 1987, killing three campers.
Lightning also causes expensive damage to buildings.
In July, lightning collapsed a 94-year-old chimney at the Carmelite Monastery on Carmel Road, causing $30,000 in damage.
In May 2015, a Wilkes Avenue home was set ablaze by a bolt of lightning, causing $35,000 damage. That same day, a Tim Hortons on Kensington Avenue suffered $10,000 in roof damage after lightning struck an air conditioning unit.
The Batavia Police Department was assisted in the investigation of the two deaths by New York State Police and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.