Army Ranger students struck by lightning during bad weather drills

Seventeen students and three instructors were hospitalized overnight after they were struck by lightning during Ranger training, the Army said Thursday.

Brook Taylor via AP
A lightning storm is captured from the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, California on July 18, 2015.

Forty Army Ranger students and four Ranger instructors were injured by lightning Wednesday afternoon while they were ‘conducting lightning protection protocols’ at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, Reuters reports.

The soldiers were in the field on the seventh day of their 10-day training program, when the storm hit in the late afternoon. Twenty-three students and one Ranger instructor were treated and discharged while seventeen students and three instructors remained overnight in the hospital.

"The Ranger students and instructors reacted and got everyone proper medical care quickly," Col. David Fivecoat, Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade commander, said in a Facebook statement. "Ranger students and instructors are tough, 31 students will return to training tonight and continue with increased medical monitoring as they try to earn their Ranger tab."

The swamp phase of Ranger School is the final test in the most difficult training the US Army offers. This is the first Ranger school class to include women and two females are in the class of about 125 students, as reported by The Christian Science Monitor. Neither of the women were involved in the weather incident, according to a statement by the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade at Fort Benning.

Recently, The Christian Science Monitor reported that “lightning strikes in the US kill an average of around 40 people per year but hit many more: 90 percent of lightning victims survive the encounter.”  

When a severe thunderstorm rolls in, lightning strikes can be a dangerous threat. So, how can they be avoided?  

William Roeder, a US Air Force meteorologist who works with NASA in Florida, suggests a very simple slogan: “When thunder roars, go indoors!”

“The safest shelter is a large, fully enclosed building with wiring and plumbing, such as a typical house, school, store, or public building. If none of these are available, the next best option is any vehicle that has a solid metal roof and solid metal sides, like the average car, bus, or truck,” he said in a news story.

“Once inside, avoid any conducting path to the outside. Don’t use a corded phone; only use a cordless phone. Stay away from television, computers, and appliances.”

“Metal pipes, or plastic pipes with metal in them, are conducting paths to the outside,” Mr. Roeder told NASA. “People have been shocked doing the dishes, or killed while taking a shower during a thunderstorm.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) advises that “if you are stuck outside in a thunderstorm, you can slightly lower your chances of being struck by avoiding high places, open fields, isolated trees, rain or picnic shelters, communications towers, flagpoles, light poles, metal fences, convertibles, and water.”

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