The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway ended early due to heavy storms in Long Pond, PA. The intensity of the storm cell included lightning bolts as the spectators were seeking shelter as they were leaving the track.
The lightning strike that hit the ground outside the track ended up taking the life of one of NASCAR’s fans. In a statement released by Pocono Raceway today, according to Monroe County Coroner Robert Allen, the name of the deceased is 41 year old Moosic, Pennsylvania resident Brian Zimmerman. The Pocono Record reported that Mr. Zimmerman was leaning against his car when lightning struck the vehicle.
Per the track, ten people were injured and were treated at Pocono’s infield medical center. Five were transported to local hospitals; two were in critical condition, including the fan that was pronounced D.O.A. at Pocono Mountain Medical Center in Stroudsburg. At this point in time as stated by the track, the one individual that was in critical condition has now been upgraded to stable. Some have been treated and released. Others involved are pending release as early as today and all are in good spirits.
The track statement today also addressed the time line of events and the Raceway's response as it happened.
At approximately 5:01 p.m. Eastern Time, the first lightning strike occurred on property inside our Grandstand Parking area, located near Gate 5A. A Pocono Raceway Grandstand Fire unit was stationed in the vicinity and witnessed the actual strike. The response was immediate as the unit reported the incident to our control tower and advised spectators were injured. CPR was started immediately to Mr. Zimmerman by a friend on the scene.
Within a matter of 3 minutes, medical personnel and additional emergency services reported on the scene and took control of treatment to individuals. EMT responders were approached by additional individuals who reported symptoms related to the lightning strike. Those affected were taken to the Raceway Medical Centers, where they were examined and transported to local area hospitals for treatment and further evaluation. A total of nine individuals were treated as a result of the initial lightning strike.
At approximately 6:35 p.m. Eastern Time, the control tower was notified of a second possible lightning strike in the vicinity near Gate 3. The individual was immediately transported to Pocono Raceway’s Infield Medical Center where they were initially treated for minor injuries before being transported to Pocono Medical Center in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania for further evaluation.
Twice before lightning tracks at a NASCAR event have caused fatalities and injuries. At the Dover oval in 1983, eight fans were injured; two of them did not survive. Most recently a severe storm at Daytona International Speedway in 2004 injured three spectators, but they fortunately were minor.
Race winner Jeff Gordon saw the bolts of lightning after the race ended. He recalled hearing a loud “crack” and knew it was bad. Hearing the first news that spectators had been injured, Gordon was concerned for the fans. For him the win was no longer important. “That's the thing that's going to take away from the victory, is the fact that somebody was affected by that."