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Lightning Injures 21 Soldiers


July 18, 2005
Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa
. -- Twenty-one National Guard soldiers were injured, and 10 of them required hospital treatment, after lightning struck a metal canopy at a training range during an evening thunderstorm.

None of the injuries was considered to be serious, however, Sgt. Richard Sandt, 36, spent Sunday night at Hershey Medical Center after being knocked unconscious.

According to Sandt, this was not his first encounter with a lightning strike. As a 12-year-old-boy, about 23 years ago, Sandt's parents warned him not to sit on the front porch during a thunderstorm. He didn't listen, and a nearby bolt of lightning blew him through the screen door of his home, he said.

Sandt was expected to be discharged sometime Monday, said Pennsylvania Army National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Cleaver.

Approximately 100 soldiers, many of them with a Kutztown-based infantry company, were firing on an M-16 range when the thunderstorm came through around 8:30 p.m., officials said. Officers stopped the training exercise and the soldiers were under a metal bleacher pavilion, waiting to board a bus, when lightning hit shortly before 9 p.m.

Fort Indiantown Gap spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Cleaver said the bolt hit 100 yards south of where the soldiers were assembled. The charge hit a nearby building, then arced over the building and hit the shed where the soldiers were seeking shelter.

''We never saw lightning,'' said Sandt, a sergeant who works as a truck driver . ''All I know is, I was talking to someone, and I woke up in an ambulance.''

"There were a couple of those soldiers that were knocked to the ground, but they remained conscious,'' Cleaver said.

Ft. Indiantown Gap serves as the headquarters for the Pennsylvania Department of Military Affairs and the Pennsylvania National Guard - Army and Air, and is located about 20 miles northeast of Harrisburg.

Pennsylvania ranks 13th in the nation in lightning deaths, with a dozen fatalities between 1995 and 2004, Weather Service figures show.



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