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09-07-2008, 03:49 PM
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Bear Basin Lightning Fatality on July 03, 2008:
Lightning fatality of a 16 year old riding a mountain bike in the Wet Mountain in Custer County, Colorado

Stephen Hodanish ([email protected])National Weather Service (http://www.crh.noaa.gov/pub)Pueblo, Colorado (http://www.crh.noaa.gov/pub)

This research is part of the Lightning Casualty Case Study (http://www.crh.noaa.gov/pub/?n=/ltg/case_studies_index.php) section of the Colorado Lightning Resource Page (http://www.crh.noaa.gov/pub/ltg.php), NWS Pueblo, Colorado.

"The primary reason for these lightning casualty case studies is to observe where victims were located relative to thunderstorm activity when they were struck".


On the afternoon of 3 July 2008, a 16 year old male, Landon Dillard, was killed by a lightning flash while riding a mountain bike on a dirt road in the Wet Mountains in Custer County, Colorado. The fatal flash occurred 0.60 miles to the north-northwest of CO highway 96 and Custer County road 271 (fig 1). The 16 year old male was riding towards the southeast on county road 271 with 5 others when the flash occurred.
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Description of the location where the fatality occurred

An examination of the location where the fatality occurred showed that the fatal flash occurred in a relative open area. (Fig 2a-b) To the immediate south and west was pastureland, while to the north and east was hilly scrubland with a few pine trees. Except for a couple of road signs (speed limit signs), no isolated tall objects were in the immediate vicinity of where the flash occurred.Information gleaned from both eyewitnesses and from the Coroner’s report indicated Landon was 2nd in line of the 5 cyclists who were riding on this day. At the actual time of the flash, the riders were spaced about 2 miles apart, with 3 of the riders in the lead pack (including Landon), while the other two were much farther behind. The first cyclist in the lead pack was approximately 7 yards in front of Landon when the flash occurred. This first cyclist did feel the electrical shock from the flash and was knocked off of his bike, but received no injuries. The cyclist that was behind Landon was approximately 25 yards behind and was not affected by the flash.

Data analysis
In order to observe which lightning flash caused the fatality, two pieces of information need to be known. The first piece of information is knowing the exact time when the lightning flash hit the victim, and the second is the location of where the victim was struck. Typically, the victims' location is well documented. In this case, the victims’ location after the incident occurred was identified, and was documented by GPS at 38.17161N, 105.29401W.
The time of when the flash occurred is also believed to be quite accurate. Shortly after the flash occurred, the cyclist in front of Landon ran over to the Bear Basin Homestead which was located just a little more than a couple of hundred yards (216 yards) from where the fatality occurred and had the residents dial 911 (see figure 2). According to the Custer County Sheriff’s office, a report of a lightning strike victim arrived at the 911 dispatch center at 4:44 pm MDT (2244 UTC).
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