Lightning strikes as family reunites

BLYTHEWOOD – The evening of Aug. 14 was to be very special for Lisandra Valdebenito and her children who live in Blythewood’s Langford Crossing neighborhood. Lisandra’s husband, Angelo, an Army Major, was to arrive home after a six month deployment to Afghanistan.

But just as Angelo’s plane was touching down in Texas, a bolt of lightning struck the family’s Blythewood home.

“We later learned that it struck the peak of our house, right above the room where my son, Fabrizzio, was lying in bed,” Lisandra said. “It hit the air conditioning unit, which is in the attic, and traveled to the furnace gas line and burst into fire.”

Fabrizzio, 17, a student at Blythewood High School, was not injured, but Lisandra said the family was frantic that the house would burn. She said her first instinct was to text her neighbors for help. She also called the fire department.

“I really didn’t know, at first, what had happened. But the house was quickly filling up with smoke,” she said. “My neighbors, Eric Anderson, Daniel Humble and Gary Ashe, responded immediately. They were angels. They rushed in and began looking for the source of the smoke, which was everywhere. We couldn’t see through the smoke.”

”Gary brought a fire extinguisher,” Lisandra remembers. With sirens on the way, Eric and Daniel frantically traced the smoke to the attic where the gas line was on fire, Llisandra said.

“As I was frantically texting my husband, who had just landed in Texas, trying to explain what was happening here at home, my neighbors were up in the attic with the fire extinguisher, trying to put out the fire,” Lisandra said.

“As soon as the firemen got there, they shut off the gas and took over,” she added. “I’m so thankful to the firemen and to my wonderful neighbors who rushed to help. It could have been much worse if Eric, Daniel and Gary had not acted so quickly.”

But that was not the end of the Valdebenito family’s neighbors’ kindness.

“That night, we couldn’t sleep in the house, so our neighbors invited me and my children and our three pets to stay overnight,” Lisandra said. “They were all so supportive and were there when we needed them. I’m so thankful for the quick actions of our neighbors and the firefighters who saved us from much worse damage that could have happened.”

As Lisandra’s husband waited at the airport in Texas, the Army expedited a connecting flight and he arrived home the next day.

“There was not, actually, a lot of damage to our house,” Lisandra said. “But it could have been very bad. After all that happened, it was a big celebration for us all being together,” Lisandra said.

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