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Lightning kills woman before proposal

Richard Butler says he was going to pull out a ring and ask his girlfriend to marry him when they got to the top of a hike in the North Carolina mountains. But lightning struck first.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Richard Butler wanted his girlfriend to think they were just taking a scenic hike in the North Carolina mountains, but he had a secret plan. When they got to the top, he planned to pull out a ring and ask her to be his bride.

Lightning struck three times as the Knoxville, Tenn., couple were on Max Patch Bald, near Asheville. The third hit Butler, 30, and his girlfriend, Bethany Lott, 25, killing her on Friday, he told the Asheville Citizen Times. He suffered third degree burns.

"She didn't say anything, and I turned around and she was laying a few feet away, and I crawled to her," he told the newspaper on Monday. "I did CPR for probably 15 minutes and the whole time was trying her cell phone, but I couldn't get anything out."

He described the lightning strike.

"I was spun 180 degrees and thrown several feet back," he told the newspaper. "My legs turned to Jello, my shoes were smoking and the bottom of my feet felt like they were on fire."

His mother, Janet Delaney, said her future daughter-in-law loved the mountains.

"She hiked thousands of miles and spent a couple of years in Utah just hiking," Delaney, also of Knoxville, told The Associated Press.

She and her son are mourning instead of celebrating the joy the engagement would have brought.

"The first couple of times I met her, I felt she was my own daughter," Delaney said. "She made my life complete and my son's life complete."

Heavy rain let up as the two walked toward the bald, but more bad weather returned including the lightning, Butler said.

"Her last words were, 'Look at how beautiful it is,'" Delaney said.

'Try to go on'
Butler turned around to see his fiancee lying on the hill.

Unable to carry her down the hill, Butler drove to the first home he found. A father and his son, who was home on leave from the Navy, jumped in Butler's truck and raced back to the bald.

"They stood on the top of the hill doing what they could for probably 20 minutes until the rescuers got there," Butler said.

After rescuers arrived, they tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate Lott. Services for her will be this week in New Tazewell, Tenn.

Butler suffered third-degree burns, but Delaney said he hasn't been to a doctor despite her urging him to go. She said his emotions seem to be in good shape.

"He's holding up better than I thought he would," Delaney said tearfully, adding, "He's going to try to go on."