The Lisburn community has raised more than £1,500 in just five hours for the man and children struck by lightning on Tuesday afternoon.
George Allen, 37, and his five-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter were hit outside the main gates of Killowen Primary School, where a sports day was being held, at 2pm on Tuesday.
At the time of going to press, Mr Allen remains in a critical condition at the Ulster Hospital while at last reports his son also remained critical.
The girl’s condition was upgraded on Tuesday night from ‘seriously ill’ to ‘stable’.
They are in the children’s section of Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital.
The fund to support the family was set by Jonny Corry and aims to raise £2000 to ‘to help with bills and every day costs during this difficult time’. A total of £1,575 had been raised at the time of going to press.
The funding page said that Mr Allen has lived in Ballymacash all his life and is well known in the community.
It is thought that Mr Allen was shepherding the children back towards his black Jeep when the bolt struck.
There was praise for the teachers and bystanders who rushed into action.
DUP Lisburn councillor Jonathan Craig has been on the school’s board for 14 years, and spoke to some direct eyewitnesses.
“At two o’clock, some of the younger children in school were leaving,” he said.
“The father went, was picking his two children up, and it started to rain heavily.
“Taking them in each hand, [he was] running across the car park to get back to his car.”
He said that then “a bolt of lightning hit him – obviously because he was holding his children, they were all impacted”.
The strike occurred in “a car park full of parents doing the exact same thing, so you can imagine the scene that then started to unfold – pretty horrendous”.
He added: “People are deeply, deeply shocked and traumatised by what has happened.”
Mr Craig continued: “You just don’t expect something like this to happen, and for three members of one family to be affected in one incident is just unbelievable.”
He said that the vice-principal had made use of a defibrillator which had been installed in the school.
“It’s one of those things we brought into the school and just hoped and prayed it’d never be needed,” he said. “Lo and behold, here we are.”
The school was closed throughout Wednesday.
Pat Catney, SDLP Lisburn councillor, lives about a mile-and-a-half from the school, and made his way to the scene soon after the news broke.
He said: “There was heavy rain, remember, at the time.
“There was still the odd roar of thunder in the skies. It was dark – the clouds seemed to have closed in on the place.”
He witnessed people including schoolteachers “trying to work on the injured” at the scene.
“I noticed too mothers and fathers trying to help with diverting the traffic down,” he said.
“It was terrible to witness, but at the same time I feel very proud of the community, they way they seemed to have rallied round there...
“I have to commend the quick response of the teachers. Just the amount of help and amount of concern.
“There was shock [and] the school was very good in trying to shepherd the children away from the tragedy.
“But it’s one of those things – just a real freak storm, a freak violent storm out of the blue.”
Words of sympathy and encouragement surfaced on the internet on Tuesday night from friends and family of the Allens.
One friend of Mr Allen’s, Stuart Thompson, wrote: “After today’s event, just makes us all realise what we have, as you really never know the moment. I know I will be kissing my kids tonight a lot more than normal.”
UUP Lagan Valley MLA Robbie Butler, a former fireman, expressed his sympathies, and also offered some practical advice.
He advised unplugging non-essential electronic devices before a storm due to the risk of power surges.
During the event, he advised not using the phone or taps, since these can conduct electricity.
If outside, “avoid water and find a low-lying open place that is a safe distance from trees, poles or metal objects”.