12 Fort Carson soldiers injured in Colorado lightning strike

By Daniel Chacon Published: August 1, 2013 | 8:45 am

Twelve Fort Carson soldiers were hospitalized, one in critical condition, after a lightning strike Wednesday afternoon south of the Butts Army Airfield.

Five of the soldiers were released from the hospital Wednesday.

The soldiers were conducting a training exercise in a large, open field about 2 to 3 miles south of the airfield when they were notified of lightning in the area, said Maj. Earl Brown, a 4th Infantry Division spokesman.

Training was suspended at that point, and the soldiers were trying to take cover when lightning hit near them about 2:45 p.m.

"The soldiers were en route to a shelter tent, and they were in a large open area where there was no other vegetation, just a large field area," Brown said.

The injured soldiers, part of a group of about 350 involved in the training, were only about 20 yards from the tent when the lightning hit between them and the tent.

Brown said he didn't know how much warning the soldiers had before the lightning hit but that it wasn't much. The National Weather Service in Pueblo reported a few lightning strikes in the area about 2:40 p.m.

"Right now, they're going to be conducting an investigation to find out what went wrong and how do we make ourselves better so something like this doesn't happen again," Brown said.

The other soldiers participating in the exercise had taken cover or were far away enough from the lightning strike to avoid injury.

Brown said none of the soldiers suffered a direct hit.

"There were no burns or exit wounds," he said.

One of the soldiers was airlifted to Memorial Hospital Central and another was taken by ambulance.

The other 10 were taken to Evans Army Community Hospital. Five of those at Evans had been released by 8 p.m. and the others were being kept for observation, Brown said.

Brown declined to disclose the soldiers' unit, saying the Army was still notifying their families.

"Paramedics were on the scene immediately and providing triage to the soldiers that were hit," he said.

"Whenever you're on the range, you have to have a medic with you."

Brown said training in Colorado, which is among the states with the most lightning deaths and injuries, comes with inherent risks.

"Our hearts and prayers go out to the families when something like this happens, but Colorado is no stranger to lighting strikes," he said. "This is an unfortunate event."

The Army airfield is in the center of the base, just west of Fountain.

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Contact Daniel J. Chacon 476-1623.

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