A beloved father of three was killed over the weekend after he was struck by lightning near the finish line of a challenging trail race in southeast Kansas.
The tragic incident happened Saturday when 33-year-old Thomas Stanley was feet away from completing a 50-kilometer, or 31-mile, race at Elk City State Park, which is near the township of Independence and more than 150 miles south of Kansas City.
“It is with deepest regrets and disbelief that I am writing to say that my best friend, father of our babies, and love went to be with Jesus yesterday,” his wife, Ashley Stanley, wrote in a Facebook post. “My heart hurts and I feel sick to my stomach. I had 15 blessed years of knowing my best friend and I was planning to have 79.”
It is with deepest regrets and disbelief that I am writing to say that my best friend, father of our babies, and love...
The annual FlatRock event, which was in its 25th year, is described as an “ultra trail race” and runs through a hiking trail that challenges athletes’ “running ability,” according to a race booklet posted online. A hazardous weather outlook was in effect for the region over the weekend, with hail, strong winds and thunderstorms in the forecast.
FlatRock organizers told KSN-TV that the day started off sunny and warm, but officials tried to get runners out of the trail as soon as the storm approached.
“We got word of a storm coming in moments before it hit,” race director Carolyn Robinson told the station.
Stanley lived in Andover, about 100 miles west of the park, and worked as director of business initiatives at the nonprofit Kansas Leadership Center.
A GoFundMe campaign set up for his family had raised more than $40,000 by Monday morning.
FlatRock called him a “wonderful man” in a Facebook post Sunday.
“Thomas’ family says that the chances of being killed by a lightning strike are about one in a million,” the post reads, “and Thomas was truly a one-in-a-million guy.”