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Four lightning victims an anomaly

MANATEE — Local first-responders here say it’s an oddity.

From 7:30 p.m. Sunday through early afternoon Monday, four people were struck by lightning in two separate instances in Manatee County.

“It’s very much an anomaly to have four in a less than 24 hours,” Manatee County Emergency Medical Service Captain Larry Leinhauser said Tuesday.

So far this year, the four people injured — three in Oneco, one near Myakka — are the only ones in Manatee to have been hit by lightning, said Joe Kanzler, a captain with Manatee EMS.

Last year three people were struck by bolts in Manatee, Kanzler said. No one hit this year or last year died from their injuries.

“It seems like they come in groups,” Kanzler said. “Kinda like one of those weird things that happens in the world of EMS.”

On average, 62 people a year are killed by lighting nationwide, according to the National Weather Service. About a dozen of those are in Florida.

In 2008, 28 people nationwide died due to lightning strikes. In 2007, 45 people were killed. Of those victims that year, 98 percent were struck outside. The remaining 2 percent, Leinhauser said, were inside.

Of the 2007 victims who died, 25 percent of them were under a tree and 25 percent of them were near water.

To avoid getting zapped, there are a few safety tips when thunder and lighting pop up. Get inside a house, car or the nearest building as soon as possible, Leinhauser said. If you are caught outdoors, avoid water, high ground or open spaces. Never duck under a tree for cover, according to the National Lightning Safety Institute. Stay away from metal objects, including electric wires, fences and machinery.

If lightning is striking nearby, crouch down and put your feet together. Try to stay at least 15 feet away from other people, NLSI recommends.

That may have been how three people got struck by the same bolt Sunday evening in the 5600 block of Fifth Street Court East in Oneco. The trio, two men and a woman, were sitting close to each other underneath three trees. At least one of the chairs they were sitting in was metal.

One of the men was seriously injured and remained at Manatee Memorial Hospital on Tuesday, a friend said. He had been in critical condition the day prior.

Just before 1:50 p.m. Monday, a woman was hit in a field at Falkner Farms in the Myakka City area. She sustained burns and trauma and was taken to Tampa General Hospital. She was expected to be released from the hospital Tuesday, authorities said.

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