UPDATE: Lightning strike victim now in stable condition

By Andy Jenks - bio | email

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - Chesterfield Fire/EMS says the victim of Sunday's lightning strike, originally hospitalized in critical condition, is now stable.  And as outdoor gatherings become more frequent, experts have ways you can protect yourself.

It was 7:30 p.m. There was a cookout in the Fortune's Ridge subdivision of Brandermill. The trees protected everyone from the sun, but not from the lightning.

Easily, the strike was enough to burn the vegetation. And the man, standing along the fence line, was sent into cardiac arrest.

The woman who lives next door knows CPR. She told NBC12 she ran over and did that until EMS crews arrived. She said it took three more shocks from a defibrillator to, finally, get a pulse.

"So we're very grateful for that citizen's actions but we can't emphasize enough the importance of CPR in the community," said Lt. Matt Coffin of Chesterfield Fire/EMS.

The man, who neighbors say went without a heartbeat for at least ten minutes, was alive and last known to be in critical condition. The extent of his injuries was not immediately clear.

Forecasters say now is the time of year when Virginia gets most of its lightning. And that's a concern, because it's also when people spend their time outdoors.

"Being under a tree during a lightning storm is about the worst place you can be, because if the tree gets struck, the electricity goes through the tree, spreads out into the ground and if you're standing there, you'll get hurt," said NBC12 meteorologist Andrew Freiden.

While human lightning strikes are rare, they can be deadly, and unpredictable.

"A lot of the myths out there is that it only strikes in high places, and another myth is that it doesn't strike twice in the same place. And we can tell you we've been to structures, locations that have had lightning strikes twice, and even three times," Coffin said.

Freiden added that lightning can strike five miles away from where the storm is occurring. His advice: If you hear thunder, your next move should be to get inside a sturdy structure as quickly as possible.

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