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Durham man recovering after being struck by lightning

Posted July 6, 2018 5:28 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 11:19 a.m. EDT

— A man who was struck by lightning in south Durham Thursday while attending a family gathering outside as a pop-up storm rolled through the Triangle was recovering Friday, authorities and acquaintances said.

Neighbors identified the man as Bruce Palmer, 74, of Durham. He was rushed for medical treatment to the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals, where he was listed in fair condition.

Emergency workers said Palmer was struck by lightning around 6:30 p.m. while he was at a neighborhood food truck gathering that was taking place at the Fairfield Swim and Tennis club.

Witnesses told WRAL News that Palmer was holding an umbrella and standing underneath a tree during a sudden downpour. The lightning struck Palmer and the tree, leaving his umbrella in tatters and damaging the tree.

According to people at the scene, Palmer was knocked to the ground but was conscious immediately after the strike.

The incident stunned his neighbors and those who know him.

"Every time it rains and thunders, you just think it's like an ordinary storm coming, and nothing's going to happen," said neighbor Wayne Rossi. "I think the way it's impacted me is I have a better appreciation for Mother Nature and lightning and thunder."

Rossi described Palmer as a friendly person.

"I’m sad that it is him because I know he’s a nice person and he has a nice family," he said. "It’s not just someone who lives in the neighborhood, it’s someone we see and talk to."

Dr. Bruce Cairns, director of the UNC burn center, said he was unable to provide information about a specific patient. However, he said that, if a victim is conscious after being struck by lightning, the prognosis is typically very good.

Cairns said the hospital will see between two and three lightning strike victims in a typical year.

"The majority of (their injuries) are relatively superficial and people do fine," Cairns said. "But there's always that chance they may have problems later on."