Triumph turned to tragedy in seconds Sunday at Pocono Raceway, when lightning killed one fan and injured nine others just minutes after Jeff Gordon’s rain-shortened win in the Pennsylvania 400.
The unidentified 41-year old man was one of nine people struck just after 5 pm ET. He was transported to Pocono Mountain Medical Center in Stroudsburg, and pronounced dead on arrival. Another fan is listed in critical condition at Lehigh Hospital in Allentown, with others were treated for less-serious injuries at various local hospitals.
Pocono Raceway Vice President Bob Pleban said the injuries occurred as a result of two separate strikes. The most serious, behind the track’s main grandstand, caused the fatality and eight other injuries. A tenth victim was reportedly struck near Gate 3 at the speedway, between the first and second turns.
Pleban said the track warned fans of impending severe weather on its public address system, adding, “We made every effort to inform everyone.” The track also used social media to warn fans of potential dangerous weather approaching, warning them to seek shelter from anticipated heavy winds, lightning, rain and hail.
Before learning of the fatality, race-winner Jeff Gordon said he was concerned for a group of fans who ignored warnings and remained in the grandstands as the severe weather hit.
"When we were going back to the garage area, there was a group of fans chanting up there that were not leaving. We were walking down pit road (and) the umbrellas weren't doing any good. There was a huge, huge crack from lightning. You could tell it was very close.
"The fans here are so loyal and avid," Gordon said. "It's just so unfortunate… you hate to hear something like that. Our thoughts are with them. I hope everything is OK."
The Pocono Record reported that race fans performed CPR on the 41-year old victim until paramedics arrived. Decisions on how to handle potentially dangerous weather are made by NASCAR and track officials, working in cooperation with local emergency services.
Photo Credit: Kevin Mingora/The Morning Call