‘It sounded like a gunshot,’ witness describes lightning bolt hitting girl playing at Garfield Park Conservatory

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It was sunny and warm and Daniel Jackson’s sorbet stall outside the Garfield Park Conservatory was overrun with customers Wednesday afternoon.

But around 2:30 PM, the weather suddenly changed.

“It was very weird,” said Jordan Garrett, 17, an executive who served the icy treats from a stand 300 block off North Central Park Avenue. “It got very dark and then it started to rain, but it just dripped,” Garrett said.

He and his boss, Jackson, saw a few flashes of lightning and then it started pouring hard.

As they hurried to find shelter, they saw a group of children still outside in the yard or on the playing field in the conservatory grounds.

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“I just turned around and saw the lightning bolt coming down and I heard a very, very loud noise. It sounded like a gunshot,” said Garrett, a Senn High School student in the Rogers Park neighborhood. “Then I heard screams.”

The deafening bang sounded like an explosion, said Jackson, 40, owner of Destiny’s Ice Water Company of the bolt, who saw the girl walk into the sunroom with a woman and another little girl. He shot a quick glance at the lightning bolt.

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“It looked white, it wasn’t a zigzag — more of a white, straight line, a big line coming down,” said Jackson, 40, owner of Destiny’s Ice Water Company of the bolt.

“It came on in a split second and went away,” Jackson said.

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They thought it hit a tree, but then heard the wail of an ambulance and paramedics rushing to the field and then shutting everything down.

The girl was in the field and conservatory staffers were performing CPR, Daniels and Garrett said.

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Then paramedics took over and about 30 or 40 minutes later they took the girl out on a stretcher. Paramedics were constantly talking to her and saying, “Honey, are you okay?” said Garrett.

The girl, whose age was unknown, was taken to Stroger Hospital, but fire service spokesman Larry Merritt had no immediate information about her condition.

A severe thunderstorm warning signal was issued at 1:26 p.m., according to the National Weather Service. The watch is in effect until 8 p.m.

Come back for updates.

Armando Sanchez of Tribune contributed

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