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Community mourns Colorado rancher killed in lightning strike

Community mourns rancher killed in lightning strike
Community mourns rancher killed in lightning strike 03:43

Mike Morgan, a 51-year-old rancher, died on Saturday after being struck by lightning while feeding his cows in Colorado's mountains.

It happened in Jackson County between the towns of Rand and Walden. It's a small, close-knit, rural community. So much so, that a statement from the Sheriff's Office included a personal note saying the victim was an outstanding community member and will be missed.

Now that community is coming together to grieve Morgan and support his family.

Mike Morgan is seen on horseback. The 51-year-old Colorado rancher was killed, along with 34 of his cows, when lightning struck his Jackson County ranch on Saturday, May 25, 2024. McFarland Productions

"Mike is a die-hard cowboy; he is cowboy through and through," said family friend Jim Sandberg.

Sandberg grew up in Jackson County with Morgan.

"Just had a grin from ear to ear and a laugh that was irresistible. Just a fun guy," said Sandberg.

Sandberg has since moved elsewhere in Colorado, but he recently visited Morgan in the hospital after an accident on the ranch.

"I was there till 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning just reminiscing about old times," said Sandberg.

He says Morgan and his wife Niki own a ranch between Walden and Rand and have a 17-year-old daughter named Dallas.

"They've been a great pair, of course, to be together since high school and have their daughter and everything. Amazing people, you're never gonna find better people," said Sandberg.

Saturday, the Jackson County Sheriff's Office says a single lightning strike killed Morgan and 34 of his cattle.

"It is not unusual to have a large group of animals felled by lightning," said Steven Clark, president of the Lightning Data Center at St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood.

Clark says Colorado sees high lightning activity because of the mountains.

"More often than not it will be called a ground current. In other words, the lightning will hit an object on earth, and the current will flow through the ground and kill the animals," said Clark.

The Lightning Data Center wants to learn more about the conditions surrounding this strike and plans to discuss it at next month's meeting.

"Just a tragedy, just pretty crazy that something like this could happen," said Sandberg.

Sandberg says neighbors immediately rallied around the Morgans.

"A few more ranchers from around the area gathered, and they started burying the dead cattle," said Sandberg.

Dozens have signed up to bring the family meals, and an online fundraiser has already raised nearly $10,000.

"Everybody that's up there, they watch out for each other," said Sandberg.

It's the start of a long healing journey after a life was lost in an instant.

"Think about your loved ones, you know, don't let anything pass you by without saying something," said Sandberg.

Sandberg says he plans to attend Morgan's funeral this week.

His wife and daughter said "he was the absolute best husband and father we could have ever asked for. We were blessed for this short amount of time we were given with him."

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