One dead, 9 injured in lightning strike at Pocono

  • Posted: Monday, August 6, 2012 12:43 p.m.

LONG POND, Pa. — A lightning strike in the parking lot at Pocono Raceway after a rain-shortened NASCAR race Sunday killed one person and injured nine others, racetrack officials said.

It wasn’t immediately clear if all 10 people were actually struck by lightning in the parking lot behind the grandstands, nor was it known whether one or multiple strikes occurred during the thunderstorm.

Two people were taken to hospitals in critical condition after the strike, racetrack officials said. President Brandon Igdalsky said one of them later died at Pocono Medical Center, but he provided no further details.

“Unfortunately, a member of our raceway family here, a fan, has passed away,” he said.

The race was called because of storms, with 98 of the 160 scheduled laps completed. The track posted warnings on its Twitter page to more than 22,000 followers near the end of the race encouraging fans to “seek shelter as severe lightning and heavy winds are in our area.”

The attendance was estimated by the track at 85,000. Pocono spokesman Bob Pleban said public address announcements were made before the storm and the end of the race for fans to take shelter and evacuate the grandstands.

Racetrack officials were reviewing the logs of when the announcements were made, Pleban said. There was no order to evacuate the track premises.

Jeff Gordon, who won the race, said he could hear a huge crack as he walked down the pit road during the storm. “You could tell it was very close,” he said. “I mean, that’s the thing that’s going to take away from the victory, is the fact that somebody was affected by that.”

One person remained hospitalized in critical condition at Lehigh Valley Hospital Center, Pleban said. The other five people were taken to various hospitals with minor to moderate injuries, he said.

“Certainly our thoughts are with them,” Gordon said. “I hope everything is OK there.”

NASCAR had no immediate comment.

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