Secondary Missile Injury From Lightning Strike

Ryan Blumenthal
2012 American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology  
A 48 year-old-female was struck dead by lightning on the 24 th October 2010 in Pretoria South Africa. The cause of death was due to direct lightning strike. Examination showed secondary missile injury on her legs. This secondary missile (shrapnel) injury was caused by the lightning striking the concrete pavement next to her. Small pieces of concrete were located embedded within the shrapnel wounds. This case report represents the first documented case of secondary missile formation (shrapnel
more » ... mation (shrapnel injury) due to lightning strike in the literature. Background history: A forty-eight year old female, her thirty-four year old son and her ten-year-old daughter were walking on a relatively urbanized road, outside Pretoria in the suburb of Eersterus, on the 24 October 2010. They were walking on the pavement under a Jacarana tree (Jacaranda mimosifolia). There was an electrical thunderstorm and they were caught in heavy rain. All three of the individuals were described as being 'very wet' at the time. At 17:45 a lightning strike hit the Jacaranda tree and killed the forty-eight year old female. Her son was knocked from his feet. Her daughter was also knocked down by the strike. Both the son and the daughter survived the lightning strike. The son sustained a 2,0cm x 1,0cm abrasion on his left knee cap. The daughter was affected psychologically and stayed home from school for one week. No further injuries could be demonstrated on the son and daughter. This case study will focus on the forty-eight year old female, who died due to the lightning strike. It will focus on an interesting injury phenomenon which she sustained and which thus far has never been described in the literature. Scene investigation: Scene examination showed the Jacaranda tree to have been struck by lightning. There were two areas within the branches where the bark had been stripped off by the lightning. Small wood chips from the Jacaranda tree could be identified up to a maximum distance of 5 meters away from the tree. There were two craters on the concrete on the pavement on the right side of the body of the victim. These two craters measured 11,0cm x 9,0cm x 4,0cm in size and 4,0cm x 4,0cm x 1,0cm in size, respectively. It was confirmed from witness reports that these two craters, which were spaced 7,0cm apart, were not present on the pavement prior to the electrical thunderstorm. Post mortem examination: Post mortem examination showed an adult female with torn-and-tattered clothing overlying the abdominal-and right inguinal regions. The clothing showed blackened
doi:10.1097/paf.0b013e31823a8c96 pmid:22104330 fatcat:yzx6oqj5hjfife6ewxfds6nr2m