Lethal lightning strike at Fort Gordon: What we know

Published: Jul. 21, 2022 at 12:01 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 21, 2022 at 4:06 PM EDT
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FORT GORDON, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The military and civilian community are in mourning after one soldier died and several were injured in a lightning strike at Fort Gordon.

Here’s what we know about the incident:

Questions and answers

What happened and when? At about 11:10 a.m. Wednesday, nine soldiers suffered “injuries associated with a lightning strike,” a post spokeswoman said. An additional soldier died.

Who died? Sgt. 1st Class Michael D. Clark, an operating room specialist assigned to 933rd Forward Resuscitative Surgical Company, 3rd Medical Command (Deployment Support).

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What about the injured soldiers? Eight are in good condition and one has already been released from the hospital.

What are their units? The 933th, 936th and 946th Forward Resuscitative Surgical Detachments were attending annual training in support of Regional Medic. Regional Medic is a training exercise for medical units to refine their processes and medical skills in field and stressful environments.

Where did it happen? At Training Area 26 on Fort Gordon. The incident was reported to the Fort Gordon Range Control, according to the post.

Has this happened at Fort Gordon before? Yes. In August 1982, 20 soldiers were injured when lightning struck a training area on the post.

How common are deadly lightning strikes? From 2006 through 2021, lightning caused an average of 28 deaths per year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How often does lightning strike? Earth sees about 6,000 lightning strikes every minute – more than 8 million per day, according to the CDC.

Is the Army especially at risk? The Army says it has the highest casualty rate among the U.S. military services. Infantry and artillery soldiers are especially at risk for lightning injury and death due to the nature and location of their training and activities. Plus multiple people can be hurt by a single strike because groups of soldiers may be working as teams.

What’s the protocol? We’ve requested safety protocol information from the military and expect to get it soon. A January 2002 U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command document, “Guide for Lightning Protective Measures for Personnel,” says troops are most often affected by indirect current from lightning and that people can be killed even 40 to 60 feet from the point of the actual strike. The guide urges troops to learn what to do if lightning is a threat, how to get warnings about approaching lightning and where to take shelter.

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