Lightning strike at New York beach kills 13-year-old boy

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) – A teenage boy from the Bronx died on Thursday night after a lightning strike at the borough’s Orchard Beach earlier in the evening injured at least five other people, including four children, police and fire department officials said on Friday (Aug 13).

Carlos Ramos, 13, was taken to Jacobi Medical Centre in critical condition and died hours later, officials said. His death came as people were seeking relief from the excessive heat that has left the New York region and other parts of the country sweltering over the past several days.

Carlos was one of at least six people who were in a group on the sand when the bolt hit at about 5pm during a fast-moving thunderstorm, a spokesman for New York City’s Parks Department said in a statement.

The Fire Department initially reported that five other people had been injured. But the Police Department said on Friday that two adults and four children were taken to the medical centre and expected to survive. The children were a five-year-old boy, a 12-year-old girl, a 13-year-old girl and a teenage boy, police said.

At the time of the strike, lifeguards had cleared swimmers from the water, and parks workers had used a loudspeaker to urge people off the beach, the parks spokesman said.

Less than an hour earlier, with the storm bearing down on the area, weather authorities had issued an advisory recommending that those who were outside seek shelter.

The lightning at Orchard Beach was among at least 20-25 strikes in the Bronx from about 5.15pm-5.30pm, according to a preliminary estimate provided on Thursday by Jim Connolly, a National Weather Service meteorologist in New York.

The turbulent weather was to be expected, Connolly said, given the heat and humidity that descended on the region this week to create “unstable conditions.”

“This is a recipe for thunderstorm development,” he said.

The storms that brought the lightning developed in central Pennsylvania before moving east, waning slightly as they passed through New Jersey and then regaining strength, with winds gusting up to about 80kmh, Connolly said.

The force of the storms prompted the Weather Service to issue a Special Weather Statement shortly after 4.30pm, urging anyone who was outdoors in parts of northern New Jersey, Westchester County and New York City, including the Bronx, to consider going inside.

1 in 10 people die

Estimates differ as to how likely it is that a person will be struck by lightning in a given year. The federal Centres for Disease Control and Prevention puts the odds at about 1 in 500,000. The Weather Service, citing data from 2009-18, puts them at 1 in 1.2 million.

A lightning strike can cause cardiac arrest when it hits, according to the Weather Service, which also notes that some victims “may appear to have a delayed death a few days later” if they are resuscitated but have sustained irreversible brain damage.

Only about 1 in 10 people who are hit by lightning die. The rest sustain injuries of varying severity while surviving to tell harrowing tales.

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Still, lightning is among the leading causes of weather-related death in the United States. From 1989-2018, the country averaged 43 reported lightning deaths a year, the Weather Service says. From 2009-18, the figure dropped to 27.

As of Aug 3, lightning had killed six people in the country this year, Weather Service data shows. The first death was in New Jersey in June, when a 70-year-old man was struck on a golf course. Of the others, one was on a golf course, three were at beaches, and one was on a hiking trail.

Before Thursday, lightning had injured 17 people in New York City since 2001, federal storm data shows. One day in August 2018, for instance, three men were struck by lightning and injured, one critically, in Queens. Two were playing soccer in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The third was standing next to a vehicle at an intersection in Jamaica.

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A lightning strike was last known to have killed someone in the city in August 2002, when a 25-year-old man went to the roof of a building on Broome Street in Manhattan to watch thunderstorms, according to the federal storm data.

The man’s girlfriend, who was knocked out by the lightning, later told The New York Times that he “wanted to see the storm come in, to see how beautiful it was.”

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