|Published:||Nov 19, 2012 7:49 PM EST|
|Updated:||Nov 19, 2012 7:49 PM EST|
FORT MYERS, Fla.- Jesse Watlington's parents spoke publicly for the first time Monday about their loss and the decision to sue their son's school and their church for millions of dollars.
The Watlingtons are taking legal action against Southwest Florida Christian Academy and McGregor Baptist Church, saying their son's death was preventable.
Chuck Watlington told reporters Monday morning he's suing because he doesn't want his son's death to be in vain.
"If I have a heart light, all the lightbulbs that have illuminated have now gone dim," Watlington said.
Watlington said the family was instructed by church leadership not to speak to reporters about the incident. Jesse Watlington, 11 was struck by a deadly bolt of lightning on his way to football practice in October. He died days later in ICU at Tampa General Hospital.
"My heart has been ripped out of my chest. Jesse, my daughter, and my wife and myself, the four of us, we were one. We prayed together every morning. My last moments with my son was in prayer," Watlington said.
The Watlington family has hired a high-profile lawyer known for taking down big corporations in court.
"Nobody can control tragedies, but when they do happen, we can be prepared. We can anticipate," personal injury lawyer Willie Gary said.
The lawsuit, which was announced Friday, contends Southwest Florida Christian Academy violated Florida High School Athletic Association rules that require schools to have a defibrillator on hand and that employees and coaches be CPR certified.
"He laid there face down for 7-9 minutes with no CPR. What is this?" Gary said.
The FHSAA tells WINK News its guidelines only apply to games, and not practices. The FHSAA also says it's not mandatory for members to have a defibrillator and CPR certification.
The lawsuit also claims the school's lightning detection device was not on, and was instead stored inside the school's athletic offices.
Pastor Richard Powell of McGregor Baptist Church previously confirmed that at the time of the strike, lightning detectors around the fields did not indicate any danger.
Powell declined to comment on the lawsuit specifically, saying only that "they continue to pray for the Watlington family."