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Assistant AG Killed After Lightning Strike Causes Brooklyn Scaffold Collapse

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TWC News: Assistant AG Killed After Lightning Strike Causes Brooklyn Scaffold Collapse
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A lightning strike that badly damaged a Brooklyn church Thursday night is also being blamed for taking the life of a longtime state employee.

The New York City Fire Department says they believe the lightning hit the steeple of Christ Church in Cobble Hill.

They say debris from the strike caused scaffolding that was surrounding the building to collapse on top of Richard Schwartz, 61.

He was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Schwartz, who lived in a nearby brownstone, served more than 25 years as an antitrust lawyer in the state Attorney General's economic justice division.

Residents say the scaffolding has been up since the area was hit by powerful storms last year.

"This building is made of large stones, caused these stones to dislodge," said FDNY Deputy Chief Vinny Mandala. "Some of them fell through the roof of the lower portion of the church and some of them fell through and knocked the scaffolding down."

"I saw that the scaffolding was coming down," said Nicola Wheir, who called 911. "I realized there was a man walking under the scaffolding at that moment. I wasn't sure what hit him but the next thing I saw, he hit the ground."

One neighbor who spoke with NY1 took the news of the accident hard.

"I was sick, you know. It should have been fixed years ago," said the resident.

"This is a heavily populated area, and people come and go, and you hope that you'll get home without getting wet or hit by something, obviously," said another resident.

In a statement, State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said, "For over 25 years, Richard served the people of New York State with integrity as an expert antitrust lawyer in the Office of the Attorney General's economic justice division. New York is a better place because of Richard's commitment to fairness and legal excellence."

Meantime, the storm took power away from more than 1,300 customers in the city.

The storms did some major damage upstate, prompting Governor Andrew Cuomo to declare a state of emergency in hard-hit Chemung County.

Powerful winds ripped roofs off buildings and tore down power lines.

The National Weather Service will try to determine whether any tornadoes touched down.

Utilities reported that nearly 100,000 customers statewide were without power after the storm passed.

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