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4 die as thunderstorms lash Tennessee

TOWNSEND, Tenn. -- Violent thunderstorms swept through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, toppling large trees throughout the popular tourist spot and killing at least two people.

Ralph Frazier, 50, of Buford, Ga., was riding a motorcycle when a falling limb struck him in the head, park officials said. Rachael Burkhart, 41, of Corryton, Tenn., died when a tree fell on her at Abrams Creek Campground.

The same tree struck a family, including a 7-year-old girl who was swimming in a creek. She and her father were airlifted to a Knoxville hospital. Their conditions were not available Friday.

The storms hit Thursday evening at the west end of the 500,000-acre, densely forested reserve on the Tennessee-North Carolina line. The storms then moved down the mountains to the Tennessee River Valley.

The same storm system killed a child and her grandmother in Chattanooga when high winds overturned a 30-foot double-decker pontoon boat they were aboard on Chickamauga Lake.

Dan Hicks, spokesman for the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, said the other 10 people on the boat survived.

Linda Nguyen, a producer at WATE-TV in Knoxville, was at Cades Cove working on a special program about the Smokies when the storm hit about 6 p.m.

"There were thousands of trees that had fallen," she said. "It looked like a tornado had touched down. . . . There were big trees, limbs. It was really kind of scary because there were areas where we were parked under downed trees that were still hanging. We thought, 'If one more storm comes through, we're going to get crushed.' "-- AP

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