POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y., Aug. 13 (UPI) — One person was killed and two others were critically injured after lightning struck a park in upstate New York.
The Poughkeepsie Journal initially reported a 51-year-old man was killed by lightning and two 46-year-old men are in intensive care. Two other people were treated for unknown injuries.
Police said the five victims were reportedly sitting on a park bench near a tree at Mansion Square Park in Poughkeepsie, located about 80 miles south of Albany, when a severe lightning storm passed through the area at about 4 p.m.
“I saw three gentleman on the bench two of them leaning against each other, a third leaning against them a young lady with a purse that was still smoking and smoldering,” witness Wilford Hutchinson told WABC.
According to CBS New York, one of the critically injured victims, 46-year-old Franklyn Mekeel, was identified at the scene by his sister Patricia White.
“He got blown off the bench and his heart stopped. They did CPR for 30 minutes, he’s in ICU right now,” she said.
The other four victims, who were also found unresponsive beneath the tree, were not identified.
National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Frugis said it was a rare occurrence, as all five victims were injured by a single lightning strike.
“It’s pretty unusual,” he said. “It’s usually a much smaller group.”
Mayor of Poughkeepsie Rob Rolison acknowledged the tragic event and warned citizens about the dangers of standing near trees during lightning storms.
“It’s a tragedy, but the thing is lightning is dangerous and can be a killer and the last place that you want to be anywhere, but specifically in a park with multiple trees, is under one of those trees,” he said.