Lightning death rocks Wheatbelt community

Soon after she started her job in the Wheatbelt last year, Stefanie Wiedenroth realised life in rural WA was going to be very different from what she was used to.

The German backpacker, who was working for a shearing contractor near Bruce Rock, told her colleague Darren Major the job was like nothing she had experienced before.

"It was just a typical adventure for her as she travelled around," he said. "She said the work was hard but she really enjoyed it and that's why she came back to have another go of the lifestyle."

The 22-year-old returned to the eastern Wheatbelt about a week ago, ready for another adventure and a second stint in the country.

She was walking through a paddock on Friday morning when she was struck by lightning in front of Mr Major.

Ms Wiedenroth was taken to Bruce Rock Hospital before being flown to Royal Perth Hospital, where she was put on life support.

Her family travelled to WA at the weekend to be at her bedside but she died soon after they arrived.

Mr Major said the whole community was shocked by the freak accident, describing Ms Wiedenroth as a happy and well-liked person.

"Everyone is in shock because these events just don't happen," he said. "I've lived out here for 40 years and I've never witnessed what I witnessed the other day."

According to the Health Department, about one person a year is admitted to a metropolitan hospital and two to country hospitals after being struck by lightning in WA.

In the 11 years to the end of 2012, 12 lightning strike victims were admitted to metropolitan hospitals and 22 to country hospitals.

Weather Bureau forecaster Neil Bennett said the tragic event showed just how dangerous thunderstorms could be.

He said people should seek shelter urgently if the time delay between a flash of lightning and a roll of thunder was less than 30 seconds.

The West Australian

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