A grieving newlywed is mourning the loss of his beloved new bride after she was fatally struck by lightning during a hike on a Colorado mountain on the last day of their honeymoon.
Ryan Pocius and Kathleen “Katie” Bartlett were hiking Mount Yale (elevation: 14,196) last Friday, just days after they tied the knot on July 11. In a poignant message Pocius posted on his wife’s Facebook page Monday, he said a magical day took a tragic turn when a lightning bolt struck Bartlett.
“We were sharing a personal goal that we wanted to accomplish to set our marriage off right – peaking a 14er together, and we achieved that with pictures to prove it. She had said on the hike up that it was the most beautiful hike she had ever been on. She was so happy that day and she was surrounded in a bed of wildflowers as far as her eyes could see as she passed from this world to the next,” he wrote.
Pocius, who was also struck and injured, said Bartlett received assistance on the mountaintop from “a wonderful group of fellow hikers and kindred spirits, including the two brothers who were struck with us, a firefighter, a physician and myself worked to try and bring Katie back.”
“I was blessed to get to spend Katie’s final moments with her, as our new friends gave her chest compressions and I gave her my own life-breath. We worked for 40 minutes to try and bring her back to no avail.”
According to The Denver Post, the couple were at 12,400 feet – just above the tree line – when the lightning struck at about 1:15 p.m. Out of cell service, it took fellow hikers nearly an hour to hike down the mountain to place a 911 call, and it took emergency crews until sometime between 4:30 and 5 p.m. to reach the couple. Bartlett was pronounced dead at the scene, while Pocius was taken to the hospital via a Flight for Life helicopter.
Friends describe Bartlett as a big-hearted teacher who cared deeply for those she loved – and those she barely knew.
“We called her Katie-Bug,” Grace Jaquez-Chase told 7News. “She was a soft, gentle breeze in any space she graced. Our family is saddened by her passing, yet certain that Katie-Bug is in a loving, blissful and perfect space.”
Friend and former college professor Deborah Young told the news station she traveled with Bartlett to Nicaragua several years ago to aid and educate children living and working in landfills.
“Fires would just start there, and this woman had been burned,” Young recalled. “And Katie got our first aid bag and bent down and started to treat her burns. She was just a very generous, caring and giving person.”
Her new husband echoed that sentiment in his Facebook post.
“During our wedding on July 11, 2015, part of my vows to her were that, ‘I would take Katie to be my partner in life, my wife and my one true love.’ Those words could never be more simple, more elegant or true. She was a partner in every sense of the word – kind, caring, supportive and we always worked to better each other. I wouldn’t be half the man I am today had it not been for her.”