IPSWICH — The second victim of a lightning strike on Crane Beach, Marianne Mellnick, 69, of Concord, died Saturday, Sept. 13, at Massachusetts General Hospital, according to Ipswich Police.
Mellnick and another woman, Marguerite Tomany, 61, of North Grosvenor Dale, Connecticut, were both hit by lightning as they walked on the beach and toward the street on the afternoon of Sept. 6. The fatal storm ripped through the town in three waves, including a violent microburst and hurricane-force winds.
“It was horrific,” Selectman William Craft said of the furious barrage of lightning that crossed the town, at one point hitting the beach. Given the intensity of the storm, Craft said he was surprised and relieved that others were not injured and that the damage to property wasn’t greater.
“As a community, our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the two women,” he said.
Craft praised the effort to save the two women, who were not breathing when reached by off-duty lifeguards from the Crane Beach staff. Ipswich firefighters and paramedics from Action Ambulance worked to restore their pulses on the ride to Beverly Hospital.
“As we’ve looked at it, I don’t think anyone could have done more,” Craft said.
Craft was scheduled to bring a report on the storm’s impact to Monday night’s selectmen’s meeting. Cleanup costs and equipment upgrades related to the storm are expected to cost more than $100,000, he said, with a request for money likely to go to Special Town Meeting this fall. But he expressed amazement that it wasn’t much worse given the fury of the storm, which seemed to single out Ipswich among all the towns on the North Shore.
Trees and branches fell all over town, said Craft, and if some had fallen in a different direction, the devastation would have been considerably more. As it was, a few homes were seriously damaged by falling trees, including one on Topsfield Road that saw massive limbs come knifing through the kitchen ceiling.
That $100,000 estimate includes the cost of overtime for town workers and payment to contractors hired to clear streets, about $50,000.
”There’s what we spent and what we learned,” he said, noting that the storm also revealed serious shortcomings in the town’s communications gear. An inadequate backup system had to be used at one point. Craft expects Town Meeting will be asked to finance a better system, estimated to cost $65,000, also included in the $100,000 estimate.
With police Chief Paul Nikas on vacation during the incident, Craft said the “excellent” response of Lt. Jonathan Hubbard and others was a mark of good overall management. Hubbard is also the town’s director of emergency management.
“This is a terrible tragedy that has struck our community,” Hubbard said. In a press release he offered condolences from the police and fire departments to the families of the women. He also corrected an earlier report, citing interviews with witnesses, to say the women were not in the water when struck, as was believed earlier.
Alan Burke can be reached at email@example.com.