McKinney, Donnie P. (P3, C1, L29)
Specialist Four Donnie Paul McKinney of Marion, Crittenden County, died on 26 July 1986 when a tree he was under was struck by lightning during training at Fort Campbell. McKinney was in drill status and served as a gunner with A Company, 1st Battalion, 123rd Armor. Several other members of the unit were injured in the same incident. The unit was at Fort Campbell for small arms qualification and familiarization. The unit was gathering in a bivouac site in Training Area 13 from various ranges where the qualifications were held. At approximately 5:50 p.m. a light rain began to fall and without any warning a bolt of lightning struck a tree which several members of the unit had gathered under and around.
McKinney enlisted in the unit in February 1983. He was promoted to Specialist in July 1985.
McKinney is buried in Section X of the Mapleview Cemetery, Marion, Crittenden County.
Lighting Kills 1, Injures 10 Others
The Crittenden Press, 31 July 1986.
A member of Marion’s Kentucky National Guard company was killed and 10 others injured Saturday afternoon when lightning struck a tree they were resting under while waiting to be served their evening meal at Ft. Campbell. SP4 Donnie Paul McKinney, 20, of Marion, was killed by the lightning bolt — the first of an approaching thunderstorm — and others were taken to the base hospital for treatment and observation.
The Guardsmen, most of whom were from Crittenden and Caldwell counties and all members of Marion’s Co. A, 1st Battalion 123rd Armor, reported suffering from shock, slight burns, numbness and irregular heart action. All but four had been released from the hospital by press time. 1Sgt. Everett Morris, who was not at the scene of the accident, said the men had been at Ft. Campbell, located south of Hopkinsville on the Kentucky- Tennessee border, to complete annual qualifications with individual weapons.
The company, training with up to 500 other Guardsmen from throughout western Kentucky, had completed firing for the day and were in a bivouac area when the storm approached about 6 p. m. The evening meal had been prepared, Sgt. Morris said, and the men were waiting for all members of the company to report before eating. A breeze came up, he said, with a drop in temperature and a few drops of rain — but no lightning. “People were sitting around thinking it might rain,” he said. Company Commander Capt. Marlan M. Pinkston of Versailles was looking in his jeep for his poncho. The first bolt of lightning from the storm hit the tree where the men were standing, according to Sgt. Morris. Those most seriously injured were touching the tree.
Morris said the area had been used as a bivouac area for several years. He described it as being moderately wooded to provide screening to camouflage vehicles and with some open spaces. Probably about 500 men from all Guard units training there Saturday were in about a half-acre plot, Morris estimated, when the bolt struck. The local company had 83 men in training.
“It just picked that tree with those people under it,” he said. The troops had planned to bivouac there Saturday night, as they had the night before, but were moved to barracks following the accident. Others injured were PFC David L. Rushing, PFC Elvis R. Rushing, PFC
Billy J. Rushing and SP$ Brian E. Hamby, all of Fredonia, PFC Don A. Jones of Cadiz, and Sgt. Samuel Brown, PV2 Dallas G. Kirk, SP4 Dennis D. Gipson and Sgt. Charles F. Conner, all of Crittenden County.
Funeral services for McKinney were conducted at 1 p.m. Tuesday at Tucker-Gilbert Funeral Chapel with Chaplain Major J. Roger Dill and Rev. Herbert Alexander officiating. Burial was in Mapleview Cemetery. Members of Co. A provided an honor guard for the ceremony. McKinney, a tank gunner, enlisted in the Guard in February 1983.