BANNER ELK — A group of 10 people were electrocuted after lightning struck a tree on the property of the Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster at 2:47 p.m. on Tuesday, July 21.
The group, ranging from 15 to 30 years old, had been sitting on a row of boulders directly under the tree when lightning struck. Several other people were sitting on a nearby bench. Six people were subsequently rushed to the emergency room due to an accelerated heart rate, and the remaining four transported themselves in a personal vehicle. The injuries were non-life threatening, according to Avery County Fire Marshal Paul Buchanan.
“There was a couple that was closest to it and several of them went airborne. They were knocked off their feet. Some of them were knocked off of the rock. None of them actually lost consciousnesses,” Buchanan said.
The Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster was closed at the time of the incident, since lightning had been detected several miles away.
“The coaster is grounded and we were not operating at the time of the incident. We closely monitor weather and shut operations down till storms pass through,” the business posted on its social media site. “Our hearts and prayers go out to them and their families.”
Avery County had been under a severe thunderstorm warning from 3:44 p.m. until 4:15 p.m. on Tuesday, July 21, according to the National Weather Service office in Greenville/Spartanburg, SC.
Avery County EMS, Banner Elk Volunteer Fire Department, Linville Central Rescue Squad, Sugar Mountain Police Department, Avery Fire Marshal, Seven Devils Police Department, Avery County Sheriff’s Office and Linville Fire Department responded to the incident. The call was cleared at 4:44 p.m.