D. Chandler, Contributor
A parking lot in Long Pond, PA. a bolt of lighting struck killing one and injuring nine others according to officials at Pocono Raceway.
Following the lighting accident, Pocono officials reported that two people were taken to hospitals where one of them was pronounced dead and the other was said to be in critical condition.
Bob Pleban, vice president of Pocono Raceway says five people were treated at the scene, while three others were hospitalized with moderate to minor injuries.
It is still unclear if all ten were actually hit.
Track president, Brandon Igdalsky, said while trying to compose himself, “Unfortunately a member of our raceway family here, a fan, has passed away… On behalf of myself, the entire family and everybody here, a really heartfelt condolences that this happened.”
Statements made by Pleban suggests that perhaps two lightning strikes near the grandstand area were responsible for the death of one person and the injuries to the others.
NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said NASCAR takes into consideration the threat of lightning when deciding whether to stop a race and when to declare it over. NASCAR officials waited until the track was completely soaked to pull cars off the track Sunday because they hoped that having cars on the track could potentially keep heat in the surface and allow racing to continue quickly if the storm passed.
“If there was a situation that warranted us to halt a race to threatening weather, we would certainly do that,” Tharp said.
Jeff Gordon was declared the winner of the race soon after the rain started.
Kyle Manger, a spectator from New Jersey, said he saw people hit by the lightning near the Turn 3 grandstands.
“Me and my friend just ran into our truck during all the nasty weather,” Manger said. “The visibility was very poor and all of a sudden [I] saw a bolt of lightning right in front of our windshield.
“When it became a little more visible, we saw two bodies next to a destroyed tent with people scrambling.”
Manger said the lightning strike occurred about five to 10 minutes after the race was called.
Gordon said the lightning was bad as he walked from his car on pit road when the race was stopped.
“I’m pretty sure I know which one it was,” Gordon said about the lightning strike. “We were walking down pit road, the umbrellas weren’t doing any good, there was a huge, huge crack from lightning. You could tell it was very close.
“That’s the thing that’s going to take away from the victory, is the fact that somebody was affected by that.”
Pocono Raceway plays host to two Cup races each year, and fans are accustomed to rain and severe weather. NASCAR estimated the attendance at 85,000.
“The fans here are so loyal and avid,” Gordon said. “When we were going back to the garage area (after the race), there was a group of fans chanting up there that were not leaving.
It was the third lighting strike in the last three days that has sent people to the hospital.