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Lightning hurts 12 soldiers at Fort Carson, 1 critically

Six remain hospitalized, one listed as critical

Jul. 31, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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FORT CARSON, COLO. — Twelve soldiers were injured, one critically, after lightning struck near them during a training exercise at Fort Carson, a base spokesman said Thursday.

Maj. Earl Brown, deputy public affairs officer at the Army base near Colorado Springs, said six of the soldiers were still hospitalized and five were treated and released after Wednesday's strike. An engineering soldier was in critical condition.

The soldiers were training with about 340 others when lightning struck at about 2:45 p.m. south of the Butts Army Airfield.

The National Weather Service issued a warning just minutes earlier, and the men were trying to get to shelter. They did not suffer a direct strike.

"The soldiers were completely exposed on high ground," Brown said. "They were a short distance from a shelter tent when they got notification there was lightning in the area, and the commander decided to suspend training."

The injured soldiers are from the U.S. Army's 555th Engineer Brigade stationed at Fort Carson. Their names were not released.

The job of soldier engineers is to build barriers, move dirt and build structures, including towers, but Brown said he didn't know what exercise was underway at the time.

The incident comes after 11 workers were struck by lightning July 18 at a northern Colorado farm.

Two of the workers in the organic fields in Wellington were critically injured, and nine others were treated at local hospitals.

Wellington Fire Protection District chief Gary Green has said the workers were preparing land for planting when a strong thunderstorm hit. Some of them were trying to reach shelter under a tractor, and others were heading for a vehicle when they were struck.

Denver's Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration office is investigating safety procedures at the farm.

As of last week, 14 people have died from lightning strikes in the U.S. this year, according to the National Weather Service. The number of lightning fatalities in the country has held steady the past three years, with 28 in 2012, 26 in 2011 and 29 in 2010.

Many of the people who died this year were enjoying summertime activities like sightseeing, boating, camping and fishing, the service said.

Last month, a couple was killed near Jacob Lake, Ariz., while sitting beneath a rock wall at a scenic overlook that got hit by lightning. Others killed this year were under trees in Missouri and New York, fishing on a boat in Louisiana, walking on the beach in Florida, camping in California and at a park in Illinois.

The National Weather Service advises people to stay indoors 30 minutes after the first flash of lightning or clap of thunder.

Most lightning deaths occur between June and August when people are outdoors enjoying the warmer weather. Nearly two-thirds of the 238 people killed by lightning in the past seven years were enjoying recreational activities, according to a study by lightning safety specialist John Jensenius Jr.

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