Fayetteville, N.C. — A mother struck by lightning Friday outside a TJ Maxx store in Fayetteville is a Fort Bragg soldier, according to Jackie Thomas, a Fort Bragg spokeswoman.
The victims were identified Sunday by a friend of the family as Rosa Sanchez and her 18-month-old son, Alex.
Sanchez was holding her son and walking to the store at 5027 Morganton Road when lightning struck just after 4 p.m., according to Scott Iverson of the Fayetteville Fire Department.
The child suffered burns to the torso and abdomen; the woman was burned and briefly stopped breathing, paramedics said.
The victims were being treated at the North Carolina Jaycees Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. Sanchez was in critical condition Monday, while her son's condition was stable.
“There are millions of lightning strikes in the United States every year, but there are only about 300 that actually hit people,” said Dr. Bruce Cairns, with the burn center.
Cairns said injuries sustained from lightning strikes vary. Some victims suffer cardiovascular or neurological problems.
“Most of the time, with a lightning strike, the people don't even need to be admitted (to the hospital). Unfortunately, there are a few where it is just devastating,” Cairns said.
An umbrella that Sanchez was holding first made contact with the lightning. The electricity then traveled down to her hand, Iverson said.
“The electricity can jump onto you and cause burns. Also, the lightning can strike on the ground and actually travel through and cause some problems that way as well,” Cairns said.
The National Weather Service does not issue warnings for lightning, and given the deadly nature of lightning, you should always be aware of the lightning danger anytime a thunderstorm is nearby. A good rule of thumb to live by is: When Thunder Roars Go Indoors.
Use thunder to gage the distance of a lightning strike. Count the number of seconds between the moment you see the flash of lightning and hear the clap of thunder. Once you see lightning, start counting seconds. For every 5 seconds that go by before you hear the clap of thunder, that’s one mile. Keep in mind this technique only tells you how far away that one lightning strike was from your location. The next one could be a lot closer. Lightning can travel as far as 10 to 12 miles from a thunderstorm.
If indoors, stay off of the telephone and away from windows.
If caught outdoors, stay away from trees, telephone poles and other tall objects.
When boating, try to seek safe shelter before the storm approaches. Stay indoors for at least 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.