Loved ones mourn 17-year-old hiker killed in lightning strike

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Wade Young (Source: Facebook) Wade Young (Source: Facebook)
Wade Young (Source: Facebook) Wade Young (Source: Facebook)
Wade Young (Source: Facebook) Wade Young (Source: Facebook)
AZ DPS Air Rescue Helicopter recovers body of a 17-year-old hiker struck by lightning (Source: Coconino County Sheriff's Office) AZ DPS Air Rescue Helicopter recovers body of a 17-year-old hiker struck by lightning (Source: Coconino County Sheriff's Office)
(Source: Tempe Union High School District) (Source: Tempe Union High School District)

Friends and loved ones are mourning the death of 17-year-old Wade Young, who was killed in a lightning strike Wednesday in northern Arizona.

Young lost his life while hiking Humphreys Peak with two friends, according to the Coconino County Sheriff's Office.

Humphreys Peak is about 11 miles north of Flagstaff. With an elevation of 12,637 feet, it's the highest natural point in Arizona.

Young had just graduated from Corona Del Sol High School in Tempe and was planning to attend ASU and study business.

Rex and Cade Peterson went to school with Young.

[READ MORE: 911 call released in deadly Flagstaff lightning strike]

They describe him as a "happy kid; very inspiring, and someone who always talked about his family."

"People that didn't know him did miss out because if you were around him, he made your day better," said Rex Peterson. "He was an amazing kid."

Young was a stand-out student, who still found time to pay rugby, work a part time job, have a girlfriend and pursue his passion as a member of the DECA Club, which prepares students to become business leaders.

"It's heartbreaking for a school and community to go through this," said Kade Peterson. "Lightning of all things. A lot of people are shocked, searching for answers."

Young was hiking with two other young men Wednesday, a 17-year-old male and an 18-year-old male.

[READ MORE: 17-year-old hiker dead after being struck by lightning; 2 others hurt]

The two other hikers suffered "injuries that were likely received due to their proximity to the lightning strike," according to the Coconino County Sheriff's Office. They were taken to Flagstaff Medical Center.

Both were conscious and walking when emergency responders got to them on the trail.

The Coconino County Sheriff's Office has identified Young's 18-year-old friend as David Lyons, also from Tempe. The sheriff office is not releasing the name of the 17-year-old since he is still considered a juvenile. 

Coconino County Sheriff's officials say the hikers called 911 dispatchers shortly before 1 p.m. Wednesday to report the incident during a heavy monsoon storm in the Flagstaff area.

A sheriff's spokeswoman said it took emergency responders quite some time to reach the hikers due to continuous lightning on the San Francisco Peaks. 

"He was hiking when it happened and that's a big part of his life," said Rex Peterson. "He played rugby, volleyball, and so many other activities. He died having a happy life."

Cory Mottice, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said there were 106 on-the-ground and 393 cloud-to-cloud lightning strikes between noon and 1 p.m. in that area on Wednesday.

Coconino County Sheriff's officials say that around dusk on Wednesday, an AZ DPS Air Rescue Helicopter pilot out of Kingman, a Coconino County Sheriff's Office deputy and a Coconino Sheriff's SAR member recovered Young’s body near the summit of Humphreys Peak.

Sheriff's Office officials posted video of the helicopter on their Facebook page on Thursday.

A Go Fund Me account has been set up to help Young's family with expenses.

The page reads: "This campaign will help support the family of Wade Michael Young who was fatally struck by lighting while on a hike with his friends yesterday. Wade meant the world to so many people including my daughter and our family. His big smile and huge heart was always on display with a magnetic expression of love was shown to everybody he came in contact with. Our family is so blessed to have had him in our lives. He will be in our hearts forever. We can all help his family by raising funds for medical bills, time off work, etc. All donations will go directly to the family."

Tempe Union High School released the following statement on its website:

"We are so sad to learn about the death of our recent graduate, Wade Young. Our hearts go out to his family, friends and all who knew this young man. Corona del Sol’s principal has been in touch with Wade’s family to offer prayers and support. He also connected with the families of the students who were with Wade and let them know we are here for them.

Wade graduated with Corona del Sol’s Class of 2016. He was an honors student, AP Scholar Award winner and was very involved on Corona’s campus. He was a member of A Cappella, the school’s top concert choir, the Red Kettle Club, a service organization that works with the Salvation Army to support local communities, and he played for the boys volleyball team. He was president of Corona’s DECA club and qualified to compete at DECA nationals. In April, Wade was recognized by Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell as a Tempe Top Teen. The annual event recognizes students for their exemplary efforts in academics, athletics, performing and fine arts, citizenship and community service.

Hearts are hurting. Our crisis team has been activated to help serve the needs of our staff and students. While the new school year does not begin until August 1, counselors will be available on Friday July 22, 2016 from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for students and staff.  If you know someone who needs immediate help, please contact Teen Lifeline at 602-248-8336 or the Crisis Response Network at 602-222-9444

We will continue to support the Corona community. We have witnessed how they lift up each other in difficult times. And we know #AztecStrong means much more than a hashtag."

Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation) and The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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