Feet from the finish line: Andover man dies after being struck by lightning

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – An Andover man died after he was struck by lightning while running the FlatRock 50k on Saturday in Independence, Kansas.

Race officials said Thomas Stanley was just feet away from the finish line when he was struck by lightning. He died from his injuries.

Thomas Stanley running in the FlatRock 50k
(Courtesy: Mile 90 Photography)

The race is known as the most technical trail race in Kansas, and officials said Stanley had already completed all the sections of the race. He was on a paved path headed toward the finish line when the lightning struck.

“We got word of a storm coming in moments before it hit,” said Carolyn Robinson, race director. “It was moments after that that we got word that a participant had been struck by lightning.”

Robinson said it started off as a hot and sunny day, then officials worked to get racers off of the trail quickly once the storm approached. Robinson said many runners and officials tried to give Stanley CPR and first-aid but were unsuccessful.

Running was just one thing Stanley loved. His friends said he loved his wife and kids even more. Stanley also had quite a few friends, too.

Thomas Stanley
(Courtesy: Chelsea Mitchell)

Brandon Johnson, Wichita City Council member, is one of those friends.

“He was someone that we never saw down,” said Johnson. “He was always happy, always had a smile on his face and if you were down, he always knew how to bring you back to being happy.”

Johnson said Stanley had a great sense of humor, too.

“Thomas tried to get me to run quite a bit,” said Johnson. “I’m not a long distance runner, so I told him maybe one day. But, he loved to run.”

Many said Stanley was a family man and he will be remembered for the love he gave and the strength he showed, characteristics that are more than admirable.

Thomas Stanley with his wife, Ashley and their three children
(Courtesy: Ashley Stanley)

“Thomas always found the silver lining,” said Johnson. “That’s something that we can all strive for.”

Race directors said Stanley will be honored as a race finisher. Robinson visited the Stanley family in Wichita to show support.

The Stanley family released this statement to KSN:

“Thomas Stanley — devoted husband, father, and friend — is now resting in the arms of Jesus. Thomas lived his life in the same direction: no matter the circumstance, Thomas faithfully served his family, his friends, and his Lord, Jesus Christ, with equal measures of love and dedication. Thomas did not know a stranger; he was quick to make friends with everyone he met and he filled those relationships with incomparable affection, joy, and laughter. Leadership was one of his greatest gifts and passions. Thomas believed that every person, regardless of their education or background, had the capacity to influence others for good. Most importantly, Thomas’s greatest legacy is the matchless love he had for his wife and three children. Thomas Stanley lived a beautiful life, one marked by compassion and joy. We love you, Thomas Stanley. We cling to the hope that we will see you again in the Resurrection! “

A GoFundMe page has been set up for the Stanley family.

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