Family members said they found Levi Yoder dead under a tree after a powerful lightning strike on Monday


An Amish community in Tennessee is mourning the death of a 7-year-old boy who was struck by lightning while playing outside under a tree.

The boy died Monday afternoon outside of his McKenzie, Tennessee, home in Weakley County. Although authorities have not released his name, family and friends have identified the child as Levi Yoder, according to multiple reports.

“There were two or three kids playing outside under a tree,” Capt. Randall McGowan, with the Weakley County Sheriff’s Department, tells PEOPLE. “The lightning hit the tree and killed him.”

The Weakley County Medical Examiner’s office has ruled the death an accident, McGowan said in a statement.

The boy’s family told FOX 13 that they heard a loud clap of thunder around 3 :30 p.m. local time and found Yoder outside dead under the tree. Just hours earlier, Yoder was helping his father repair a horse buggy.

Lightning strike on sky
Credit: Getty

The family told the station that the storm didn’t seem to be out of the ordinary. But the powerful lightning strike apparently tore bark off of the tree and the electrical charge was so strong that it burned Yoder’s clothes to shreds.

Now, the community is coming together to help the family, according to The Jackson Sun.

“We believe children [who die] are assured a place in heaven,” a family friend told the site. “We’re all helping to do whatever needs to be done.”

Yoder, who leaves behind his parents and four siblings, will be buried at the McKenzie Amish cemetery on Thursday, according to FOX and The Sun.

The incident is the fourth lightning death in the U.S. this year, according to the National Weather Service. Yoder is the youngest of the victims.