A lightning strike in Lakeland, Florida, USA left one dead and eighteen others injured on 4 July 2009.
A Fourth of July Celebration
About 100 members of a church group were playing soccer and volleyball outdoors on 4 July 2009, in the town of Lakeland, Florida, about 48 km (30 miles) east of Tampa. The members of the gathering were celebrating the nation’s Independence Day when, at about 4:40 pm, lightning struck the area.
Fatalities and Injuries
Benjamin Gonzalez, age 30, was hit by the strike and later pronounced dead at the hospital. Eighteen others were hospitalized for the injuries they sustained. Nine were treated on the scene for non-serious injuries, including numbness and tingling.
Six ambulances and two fire trucks were dispatched to the scene and the victims were taken to hospitals in Lakeland, Plant City and Bartow.
An Unforeseeable Accident
Polk County Sheriff, Grady Judd, said that the deadly results of this lightning strike could not have been foreseen.
"It’s very sad to see folks just celebrating the Fourth, in a way that you would hope people would celebrate the Fourth, with friends and family, and a lightning strike, an act of God occurred, and one person died," Judd said.
The celebrations included soccer games for the men and volleyball for the women. Witnesses reported some cloud build up around the area, but no one was alarmed. Lightning storms are common in Florida.
Sheriff Judd reported no damage to the field, trees, or nearby barn, and no one is sure exactly where the lightning bolt hit. The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration has stated that lightning causes more Florida deaths than all other weather hazards combined; Florida has the most lightning casualties of any American state.
The National Weather Service states that Florida experiences about 1.5 million lightning strikes each year.