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Lightning Strike Kills Visitor at Bryce Canyon National Park


A German visitor trying to seek shelter from a thunderstorm at Bryce Canyon National Park was killed when lightning struck the Ponderosa pine he was standing under.

Park officials say Volker Kunz, 51, of Hamm, Germany, died last Thursday. Mr. Kunz and his family had been hiking the Rim Trail between Sunrise and Sunset points when a thunderstorm approached the area about 12:30 p.m. The family was heading back to their car when Mr. Kunz stopped under the pine tree, according to a park release.

When the lightning bolt struck the tree, its energy passed through the man. Family members ran to the Bryce Canyon Lodge for help. A registered nurse responded, and began CPR on Mr. Kunz when she found him without a pulse.

Park rangers and Garfield County emergency medical technicians soon arrived and continued CPR. Attempts to revive the man continued while he was transported by ambulance to Garfield Memorial Hospital in Panguitch, Utah, 25 miles away.

Hospital staff took over care of the patient but attempts to revive him were unsuccessful, the park reported.

In the wake of the incident, park officials reminded visitors that thunderstorms are frequent in the summer months and that if they hear thunder within 30 seconds or less of a lightning flash, they should seek shelter immediately in a building or vehicle and not under a tree or near any high point of land.

The last lightning-caused fatality in the park was in 2004.


What a tragedy.

Don't forget that lightning can actually travel great distances to hit you:

I was at Bryce last month.  The rangers do a good job of warning visitors what to do when thunderstorms approach.  Visitors are told repeatedly NOT to stand under any lone tree near the rim.  Maybe this man didn't hear a ranger talk or maybe he paused for just a moment, just the wrong moment. 

I was there doing on the day of the lightning strike and me and my girlfriend were hiking out of the canyon when the thunderstorm approached, we were amazed how many people kept heading down into the canyon even with the obvious thunder approaching, when sought shelter in our car and waited the storm out, while waiting we witnessed his family searching for help but we didn't find out what happened until the storm let up, very sad

From my experience it would seem safer down IN the Canyon than along the Rim.  Also, I heard something last summer that a grove of Aspens is a safe or safer place than among the Ponderosa's or similar Evergreens.  Please correct me if I'm wrong but have been thinking about it.  Aspens are usually shorter than Evergreens for one reason but I wonder if their unique root system has anything to do with it or if in fact there is any truth to the story.  

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