2 Virginia men struck by lightning remain in serious condition

Father of one killed when Annapolis tree hit

June 19, 2000|By Kurt Streeter and Neal Thompson | Kurt Streeter and Neal Thompson,SUN STAFF

A pair of Virginia men injured with a group of rugby players and fans after a lightning strike in Annapolis on Saturday remained in serious condition at Maryland Shock Trauma Center last night.

Robert Patton, 26, and Brian Bohannon, 24, both of Norfolk were being held for observation and were in serious condition yesterday, according to Shock Trauma officials.

Patton's father died in the lightning strike. Donald Patton, 58, of Centreville, Va., suffered a heart attack after he was struck and was pronounced dead at Anne Arundel Medical Center.

The younger Patton and Bohannon are teammates on the Norfolk Blues Rugby Football Club, which was playing a tournament at Annapolis Middle School when lightning ripped through the area during a thunderstorm at 2:30 p.m.

Trying to avoid heavy rain and hail, the team and its fans settled under a tree. Lightning hit the tree, sending electricity through the ground and injuring nine people.

Patton and Bohannon were close friends who had planned a Father's Day fishing trip, said team captain Darin Darden, who walked away from the tree before the strike and was not injured.

Donald Patton "was there to watch his son play, that's all. Just to watch a game," said Darden. The elder Patton was closest to the tree and appeared to take the brunt of the shock, he said.

"It happened so sudden, it was just unbelievable," said Darden, who added that the Robert Patton was conscious after the strike, but complained that he could not feel his legs.

Bohannon, a student at Old Dominion University, lay on the ground and moaned that his legs hurt. When paramedics arrived, they took off victims' shoes and socks.

Darden said that the soles of the victims' feet showed odd red, yellow and white burn marks where the lightning left their bodies.

"It was the weirdest thing I have ever seen," he said.

Six other players and fans were injured. Four were treated and released Saturday. Sean Brawley, 34, and Edward Stolkunas, 22, both from Norfolk, were released from Anne Arundel Medical Center yesterday.

On average, fewer than 100 people die from lightning each year, according to the National Weather Service. In 1998, 44 people were killed by lightning. Florida had the highest number of fatalities, with eight. Two states had three fatalities. Maryland and seven other states had two fatalities each.

Maryland has been the scenes of numerous lightning fatalities and injuries over the years. In 1986, a lightning bolt attracted to a beach umbrella killed three people visiting Ocean City with a bus tour. A fourth person died a few days later.

That summer, a woman crabbing from a bridge in Salisbury was struck by lightning and killed, and lightning was blamed for a Cumberland house fire that killed a 72-year-old man.

A year later, a city planner was killed and 13 were injured after lightning struck a chapel in Baltimore's Leakin Park and set it ablaze.In 1991, two boaters reached shore safely during a storm only to be struck and killed by lightning. In 1993, a man visiting his wife's grave at a Baltimore cemetery was struck and killed. A year later, a Little League coach was killed moments after canceling his son's baseball game.

Sun staff researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article.

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