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Death by Indoor Lightning: Yes, It's Possible

Mar 06, 2017 08:39 AM EST
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Lightning strikes indoors too. Learn how to be careful, even in the safety of your home.
(Photo : Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Death by lightning is horrific, so most people duck inside to avoid the wrath of thunderstorms. Bad news: apparently, simply being indoors doesn't guarantee safety from lightning strikes.

Recently, a 53-year-old man was killed by a lightning strike at an undisclosed place and time, according to a report from Popular Science. The police went to the man's cottage, which he had been renovating when he suddenly stopped responding to his family's calls.

What the officials found was strange: the man's burnt corpse lying between two metal sawhorses. With no sign of a fire or electrical malfunction anywhere in the residence, the cause of the man's death remained a mystery.

More details were uncovered in a paper published in the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology. Seventy percent of the man's body suffered first-, second-, and third-degree burns, and his clothes and hair were singed. However, his lungs had no soot, and his cause of death was ruled as heart failure.

With steel beams sticking out from the inside of the cottage to the outside, plus metal equipment surrounding the corpse, the investigators concluded that a lightning bolt must have penetrated the beams, travelled through the tools and entered the man's body, killing him.

In the period of 2003 to 2012, an average of 35 Americans die of lightning strikes every year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This may seem like a low number, but with lightning barrelling down to earth over 8 million times per day, one always has to be careful - even when you're inside.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) listed three ways a lightning can enter a structure: through a direct strike, through wires or pipes extending outside, or through the ground. If it gets inside, it can also travel through electrical and telephone wires, plumbing, and radio and television systems.

Stay safe by avoiding touching corded telephones, plumbing and electrical equipment, including computers, television and such. People are also advised to stay away from windows and doors, as well as concrete floors and walls.

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