Most people know their odds of getting struck by lightning, but few understood just how serious such an incident can be. Last week, a young couple was severely injured when lightning struck their remote campsite.
According to the Watershed Post, an unidentified married couple from Princeton, NJ, nearly lost their lives on March 16 when they were struck by lightning while camping in the Green County Catskills.
The couple, a man and woman in their twenties, set up camp in a secluded part of the Catskills forest with their dog last Wednesday night. The makeshift campsite was located in a grove surrounded by towering hemlock trees.
As the couple began preparing dinner, dark clouds and heavy rain began to engulf the campsite. Eventually, lightning struck two hemlock trees that were directly adjacent to where the couple had pitched their tent.
Tent camping is preferred by about 86% of people because it allows campers to experience the outdoors without the luxury of an RV or cabin. However, sleeping in a tent also leaves campers vulnerable to dangerous situations, such as bears or lightning strikes.
When lightning struck the couple’s campsite, the surrounding trees were immediately destroyed. New York State Forest Ranger Rob Dawson claims that the tree closest to the couple “basically had its bark blown off.”
Dawson believes the lightning that struck the trees then traveled several feet through the “ground effect” to strike the couple. While the dog was uninjured, the woman was immediately knocked unconscious, and the man barely managed to call 911 from a cell phone before he also lost consciousness.
Within minutes, about 30 first responders were en route to the scene of the incident. Medical personnel hiked about one quarter of a mile into the woods through heavy rain to track down the injured couple.
According to Wild Backpacker, more than 50 people are killed in the U.S. each year by lightning strikes. Though 90% of strike victims survive, approximately 80% sustain serious injuries that can linger for the rest of their lives.
While the long-term effects of this incident will not be known for quite some time, the injured man had lost sensation in his legs by the time medical assistance arrived. His wife was able to walk to a nearby ambulance with some assistance despite sustaining a concussion.
The woman was released from the hospital later that day, but her husband was still being closely monitored in a hospital as of March 17. Dawson added that the odds of this couple being struck by lightning were astronomical, considering the fact that they were the only ones camping in that particular forest at the time.
While this incident was certainly unlucky, it’s safe to say the man and woman both feel fortunate to have escaped with their lives.