June 13, 2000
00-139

Jennifer Tanner
Communications Specialist

Family donates lightning detectors to VSU

Harold and Patsy Jackson, parents of Ben Jackson-the Valdosta State University baseball player killed Aug. 8, 1999 by lightning-have donated six portable lightning detectors to the VSU Athletic Department in memory of their son.

Jackson was struck by lightning while in Thomasville playing in a non-VSU summer league baseball game.

According to Russ Hoff, director of VSU Sports Medicine, the Jacksons' donated one detector at the start of baseball season and, after seeing the need for additional units, donated five more detectors.

The decision to have portable versus permanent units was due to the different venues that need this type of detection device and the various teams' traveling schedules, Hoff said. "When we travel to other schools they don't have lightning detectors to use and having portable ones is very beneficial. We play away as much as we do at home."

The equipment was tested extensively during baseball season to determine the best method, policy and procedure for using the units, according to Hoff.

"Currently there is not a lightning policy in the Gulf South Conference-it's based on the official's judgment," Hoff said. "The officials have been very receptive and it makes it easier on them to make a decision."

The units, which are 3-by-6 inches and cost approximately $200 each, can detect lightning strikes from up to forty miles away, according to Hoff. The Athletic Department staff monitors the units and if there are two or three consecutive detections of lightning in an 8-20 mile radius, a request is made to clear the field, Hoff said.

Hoff said other schools in the Gulf South Conference have already been taking note of the lightning detectors and have been calling to find out where they can purchase this type of equipment.

"We are very grateful to the Jackson family for their donation," Hoff said. "It will help educate other schools and individuals about lightning."

VSU athletics officials see the donation as a fitting tribute to a fine student.

"Ben was a nice young man with great courtesy and respect for everyone," said Tommy Thomas, Blazer head baseball coach. "And, he was just as respected by his peers."

"If we can help some other kids like Ben, then that's what we want to do," said Harold Jackson, Ben's father. "We think Ben would have wanted us to do this."

Reporters, Producers: For additional information, contact Lynne Capece in the VSU Athletic Department at 229-249-2631.