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PGA CHAMPIONSHIP : Another Spectator Killed by Lightning

August 09, 1991|LEONARD SHAPIRO | WASHINGTON POST

CARMEL, Ind. — A 39-year-old Indiana man was struck and killed by lightning Thursday during the first round of the PGA Championship, the second lightning fatality involving a spectator at one of golf's major tournaments this summer.

Thomas Weaver of Fishers, Ind., a suburb about 10 miles east of the Crooked Stick Golf Club, was hit on the left shoulder at about 2:30 p.m. Thursday, a few feet from his car parked in a lot about a mile from the golf course, according to several witnesses. Weaver was a member of the Fishers Town Board and was the president of an electrical business. He was married and had two children.

On June 13, a 27-year-old spectator standing under a tree at the Hazeltine National Golf Course in Chaska, Minn., was hit by lightning and died during the first round of the U.S. Open. Five other spectators were injured, prompting officials in all of golf's governing bodies to reevaluate their severe weather and course evacuation policies for tournaments.

First-round play was suspended Thursday at 2:14 p.m. for 90 minutes as the area was rocked by thunder and lightning accompanying heavy rain. Officials of the PGA of America, which runs the tournament, said warnings that severe weather was heading toward the golf course had been posted on leader boards all around the course about an hour before play was suspended.

The pairing sheets available free to spectators also included a warning to "observe the leader boards throughout the golf course for weather warning signs that will appear if PGA becomes aware of inclement weather moving into the area. When this sign appears, spectators are advised to take precautions and seek shelter prior to play being suspended. If the siren sounds, put down your umbrella and seek shelter immediately."

Weaver and thousands of other fans in a crowd estimated at about 25,000 were heading to cars or other shelters around the course before and after the warning sirens sounded to halt play.

Jim Awtrey, executive director of the PGA of America, said Weaver was treated almost immediately on the scene--a parking lot in a vacant field--by a nurse and five physicians who were heading to their cars. CPR was administered by the physicians, and an ambulance was on the scene "within minutes," he said.

Awtrey said the lightning knocked an umbrella out of the hands of Weaver's unnamed male companion, but that the companion apparently was not injured.

PGA officials were shaken by the incident. Awtrey said that since the Hazeltine death, all his organization's procedures had been reviewed, and tournament staff was using its own radar warning system, besides getting input from local and national weather officials.

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