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Family Killed By Lightning Known To All in Small Town

June 20, 1994 GMT

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) _ Everyone knew Harrison Lee, Sheila and Matthew Christian in their hometown of just 171 people. The lightning bolt that killed the family of three and two relatives jolted them all.

″It’s hard just taking one death. But when you have to take five, it’s unbelievable,″ Jane Bay of Camden on Gauley said Monday.

Her brother’s family and an aunt and uncle were killed instantly Thursday when lightning struck a tree where they sought shelter during a fishing trip on Lake Moomaw in Warm Springs, Va.

A fisherman discovered the badly burned bodies Friday next the tree, which was split to the ground.

Harrison Christian was 46; his wife was 37. Matthew was their only child, 10 years old. Also killed were Robert Chester Johnson, 67, and his wife, Marjorie, 63, who lived in Princeton, W.Va., about 70 miles south of Charleston.

″It’s devastating. Everybody’s in shock,″ said Paul Callahan, a grocery store owner in Camden on Gauley, 57 miles east of Charleston.

″In a small community, everybody knows everybody else, so it’s a kind of blow to the community,″ he said.

Christian, a former Marine, was security director for High Power Energy Co. in Summersville. A Vietnam veteran, he also served as a White House presidential guard and accompanied Richard Nixon to China in 1972, said family friend Dan Gregory.

″It’s still kind of hard to believe,″ Gregory said. ″Any death is tragic. But that family was so close, I don’t know what they would have done without one another.″

The Christians and Johnsons were frequent visitors to Lake Moomaw, a 2,350- acre reservoir on the Jackson River, often driving out together after meeting up in Camden on Gauley.

″They were the all-around American family,″ Bay said.