DEMAREST, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A New Jersey grandfather passed away Friday night after suffering injuries during a powerful lightning strike, police confirmed.
He was watching his grandson play soccer when a storm came out of nowhere and knocked the 71-year-old unconscious.
Witnesses described a chaotic scene where the strike took place — Northern Valley Regional High School in Demarest.
“I just like heard the huge boom and then…everyone was like screaming and running,” Carolina McGuire, a senior student, told 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria.
The victim was airlifted to Hackensack University Medical Center in critical condition with serious injuries, WCBS 880s’ Jim Smith reported. He succumbed to his injuries and died later Friday night.
WCBS 880’s Jim Smith Reports
A long tree limb was seen splintered and shattered on the ground where he was struck.
“I can tell you the debris field is extensive and it was very strong strike,” Demarest Police Chief James Powderley said.
Employees of the high school tended to the victim until EMS crews arrived at the scene.
“When I looked outside under the trees, the man was laying on the ground and he was surrounded by people and he was getting CPR,” witness Nina Belfert told CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey.
At the time, the high school’s soccer, field hockey, and football teams were outside. School officials said students were being moved off playing fields before the incident happened.
“There was a sudden and unanticipated lightning strike in the area of our high school. Players were being cleared from the fields and lightning struck a tree near one of our practice soccer fields…and an observing adult was injured,” said Dr. Bruce Sabatini, Principal of Northern Valley Regional High School.
Schools Superintendent Christopher Nagy said about 100 students were immediately rushed to shelter.
Eli Nachmany was one of the many athletes evacuated inside.
“When we were walking up the hill, we heard another burst of lightning — crackling sound that almost sounded grisly,” Nachmany said.
The lightning sent a tree’s bark and branches flying about a hundred feet.
Nine students were taken to area hospitals feeling a tingling sensation, headaches and other ailments, WCBS 880’s Smith reported.
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