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Lightning strike at Colorado's Fort Carson injures 12 soldiers

August 01, 2013|By Benjamin Mueller

Twelve Fort Carson soldiers were hospitalized, two of whom remained in critical condition Thursday, after lightning struck an open field south of the Butts Army Airfield in Colorado where the 52nd Engineer Battalion was training.

The battalion was conducting a training exercise on Wednesday in a large field empty of vegetation when it was warned of an approaching storm system, Dani Johnson, Fort Carson’s chief of media relations, told the Los Angeles Times.

Soldiers suspended training and moved to take cover in a tent, but the storm advanced too quickly and struck while some of the soldiers were still scrambling for shelter around 2:45 p.m. 

The lightning landed about 200 yards from the soldiers, sending repercussions through the ground that injured 12 of them, Johnson said.

One soldier was evacuated by helicopter and another by ambulance to Memorial Hospital in nearby Colorado Springs.

The remaining 10 injured soldiers were treated at Evans Army Community Hospital. Johnson said five were released by 8 p.m. Wednesday, and five were held overnight for observation.

Johnson said none of the soldiers suffered a direct hit. Part of a group of 350 involved in the training, the injured were treated initially by fellow soldiers and an Army medic who had accompanied them into the field.

Johnson said the Army installation remains confident in its response procedures and that the weather system simply arrived too quickly for the soldiers to take shelter. “As with anything, we’ll go back and try to see if there’s something else we could’ve done,” she said.

Another lightning strike hurt nine farm workers a few weeks ago in northern Colorado. The state is among those that suffer the most frequent lightning strikes.

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Twitter: @benjmueller

benjamin.mueller@latimes.com

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