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Three Workers Struck by Lightning at South Carolina Plant Nursery


July 10, 2006

Moncks Corner, SC- Three unidentified female workers were apparently struck by lightning while on the job at Carolina Nurseries in Moncks Corner Thursday afternoon. Carolina Nurseries is the largest plant nursery in South Carolina, covering about 700 acres.

The nursery at U.S. Highway 52 and Gaillard Road was preparing to end the day early around 2:30 p.m. because of the storms, company President J. Guy said.

It is unclear if the women were hit by lightning or if it struck nearby and traveled through the ground. They were working about 200 feet from a tree line and were also near a pond, Whitesville Rural Fire Department Chief Tim Stephenson said.

Chief Stephenson and his six men responded to the incident, along with the Berkeley County Emergency Medical Services.

They reportedly found three women, lying across a roadway at the facility. the most severely injured victim was in cardiac arrest and was receiving CPR from a co-worker, he said.

The woman still wasn't breathing and had no pulse when firefighters arrived but had no visible injuries, Stephenson said. The jolt from an electrical shock can cause the heart to quiver, he said. Firefighters took over CPR and gave the woman oxygen. Her pulse returned after Berkeley County EMS shocked her, he said.

“You have about four to ten minutes before brain death actually occurs,” Stephenson said,”so she was extremely lucky there were people here who knew exactly what to do and how to perform CPR.”"The other two people appeared to have minor injuries, mostly just shaken up," he said.

The three injured workers were taken to Trident Regional Medical Center in North Charleston for treatment.

The two stabilized individuals have since been released. The woman in critical condition has been taken to the burn center at Doctors Hospital in Augusta, Georgia.

Meteorologist Steven Taylor of the National Weather Service in Charleston said there wasn't much the woman could have done to prevent being struck.

"If you're caught in the open field, the idea is to make yourself as small as possible, preferably crouching down and leaning on your heels," he said. "When you're out in the field, unfortunately, there is no where to go."

You should not seek shelter under tall isolated objects, such as trees, Taylor said. Also, stay clear of metal objects, such as fences and poles. They can be easy conductors for lightning to travel long distances.

"Anytime you hear thunder, you need to go indoors," Taylor said. "If you are able to hear thunder, you're close enough to be struck by lightning."

Thursday was the first time a nursery employee was injured by lightning in 25 years in business, Guy said. The company always pulls people from the field when it starts lightning, he said.



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