Lifestyle & Belief

Lightning kills NASCAR fan at Pocono Raceway, Pennsylvania


Crew members push the #14 Office Depot Back to School Chevrolet, driven by Tony Stewart, back to the garage as rain falls during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pennsylvania 400.


Jared C. Tilton

Lightning has killed a NASCAR fan at the Pocono Raceway and injured 9 others, according to reports.

Pocono spokesman Bob Pleban told the Associated Press that it was not clear if all 10 were actually struck by lightning, nor whether one or multiple lightning strikes occurred.

SB Nation reported that fans had sought shelter following the end of the rain-shortened Pennsylvania 400 NASCAR race. But lightning struck the parking lot and other areas around the track as fans ran to their cars. cited track president Brandon Igdalsky as confirming the death, pronounced after the victim was taken to Pocono Medical Center in East Stroudsburg, Pa.

"Unfortunately a member of our raceway family here, a fan, has passed away," said Igdalsky, whose grandfather, Dr. Joe Mattioli, built the track.

"On behalf of myself, the entire family and everybody here, a really heartfelt [condolences] that this happened."

The National Weather Service had issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the area at 4:12 p.m., however the race was not stopped for another 30 minutes, SportingNews noted.

A track spokesman said warnings about lightning in the area had been issued over the public address system.

The track also posted warnings on its Twitter page near the end of the race encouraging fans to "seek shelter as severe lightning and heavy winds are in our area.''

According to SB Nation, officials kept the race going until the storm cell was directly over the track, and then it was called off, with 98 of the 160 scheduled laps completed, because of rain.

Officials had waited until the track was completely soaked Sunday before pulling cars off, reasoning that having keeping heat in the track surface would allow racing to continue quickly if the storm passed.

However, cited NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp as saying NASCAR took into consideration the threat of lightning when deciding whether to stop a race.

"If there was a situation that warranted us to halt a race to threatening weather, we would certainly do that," Tharp said.

SB cited race winner Jeff Gordon as saying he was walking on pit road after when he heard a "huge, huge crack from lightning."

"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. The fans here are so loyal and avid.

"That's just so unfortunate because they're so loyal and avid here, so you hate to hear something like that. Certainly our thoughts are with them. I hope everything is okay there."

A witness, Kyle Manger, said: "Me and my friend just ran into our truck during all the nasty weather. The visibility was very poor and all of a sudden [I] saw a bolt of lightning right in front of our windshield.

"When it became a little more visible, we saw two bodies next to a destroyed tent with people scrambling."

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