Lightning Bolt Sends Florida Airport Ground Worker to Hospital
by Ariana Brockington
A lightning bolt struck an airplane before traveling through an airport worker's body and electrocuting him.
Austin Dunn, a 21-year-old airport ground worker, was standing next to a Sun Country plane on July 22 when lightning began to strike the tarmac at Southwest Florida International Airport, video obtained by NBC2 shows.
In the video, the bolt hits the plane and then immediately electrocutes Dunn, causing him to fall to the ground. NBC2 reports Dunn has third-degree burns all over his body and spent two weeks in the hospital recovering.
Three workers were on the tarmac during the lightning storm. One man was directing the front of the aircraft and the second was operating a vehicle to move the plane onto the runway. Dunn had been working near the plane’s wing for about a minute. After the incident, his co-workers quickly tried to find someone to help.
When his family heard about the accident, they prayed for a miracle.
Autumn Dunn told NBC2 her brother had a traumatizing experience. She said she was driving when her father informed her Austin had been electrocuted. “He's my best friend,” she said as she started to cry.
“We knew he wouldn't give up,” she said. “Once we knew he was alive…It was a relief but it was definitely the scariest thing, you don't expect it ... you don't expect it.” Southwest Florida International Airport officials said lightning warning system systems were activated when Dunn was struck.
Florida has the highest number of deaths by lightning strikes. So, always beware of these lightning storms. This worker did the very worst thing he could do and sought shelter in a massive metal object that actually atracts lightning! That was a no-no.
Florida ranks number one in the number of deaths due to lightning, 94% of which occur between late May and end of September. An average of 100 people are killed in the U.S. each year (10-13 in Florida) and almost 600 injured (30 in Florida). Lightning kills more people in the U.S. than hurricanes and tornados combined.
SINCLAIR BROADCAST GROUP) -- Surveillance video captured at Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Meyer contains chilling footage of the moment lightning struck a plane, and electrocuted an airport worker walking on the tarmac.
The victim, Austin Dunn, was hospitalized for almost two weeks following the incident.
"My dad called and he said, your brother was electrocuted, and he's at Lee Memorial, and all I asked was, 'is he alive?'" sister Autumn Dunn said.
"It was definitely the most scariest thing," Dunn said. "You don't expect it."
In the video, three workers can be seen helping a Sun Country plane back up for take off.
Austin Dunn, dressed in orange, goes to duck under the plane.
At that exact moment, lightning struck the plane's tail, travels through the body and ignites Dunn's body in an orange flash.
Dunn collapses immediately; his coworkers are seen frantically signaling for help. Southwest Florida International Airport officials said lightning warning system systems were activated when Dunn, 21, was struck.
FORT MYERS, Fla. - A worker at Southwest Florida International Airport was hospitalized last month after an airplane was struck by lightning while taxiing away from a gate.
Local 10 News on Wednesday obtained cellphone video showing the moment that the lightning struck the Sun Country Airlines plane and shocked Austin Dunn.
Dunn, 21, was recently released from a Fort Myers hospital, nearly two weeks after the July 22 lightning strike.
"Once we knew he was alive, it was a relief," sister Autumn Dunn told Fort Myers ABC affiliate WZVN.
The lightning bolt struck the plane's tail, traveled through the fuselage and into Austin Dunn's body, WZVN reported. The video shows him fall to the ground immediately after the lightning struck the plane.
Officials said the airport's lightning-warning system was activated at the time. A view of the tarmac from a wider angle of the lightning strike shows that no other planes were in operation at the time.
The company that employs Dunn and is subcontracted by the airport did not reply to requests from WZVN for comment.
Sun Country has not replied to an email seeking comment.
|The earth experiences about 44,000 thunderstorms every
day, with approximately 1,800 storms in action at any given
moment. The most active area in the world is Java, an
island of Indonesia, with an average of 223 storm days per
Florida is known as the lightning capital of the United States, with storms occurring approximately 100 days out of the year, compared to California's low of only 5. Although our entire state rates as a high risk area, the most dangerous area runs from St. Augustine (north) to Lake Okeechobee (south) and from east to west coasts. That puts our Tampa Bay area right in the middle of the danger zone. Daily summertime showers are a fact of life in Florida but should not be taken for granted. Florida ranks number one in the number of deaths due to lightning, 94% of which occur between late May and end of September. An average of 100 people are killed in the U.S. each year (10-13 in Florida) and almost 600 injured (30 in Florida). Lightning kills more people in the U.S. than hurricanes and tornados combined. Top
|WHY FLORIDA? Partially due to its high heat levels, high humidity, and location between the Gulf and Atlantic oceans; rain clouds plus high heat equals thunderstorms and lightning!|
|As Ben Franklin first proved in 1760 with just a kite, string, and a key: lightning is electricity. There are three basic kinds of lightning: 1) cloud-to-cloud; 2) cloud-to-ground; and 3) intra-cloud. Charged particles gather in the lower part of the clouds and are attracted to charged particles on the ground. If the earth's particles are positively charged and the cloud's are negative, the static electricity causes a spark to jump from the cloud to the ground. If the opposite occurs, a positive spark spikes up to meet the negative cloud (usually seen at the front edge of the storm). Either way, when these sparks collide, a sort of short circuit occurs and causes the bright flash we know as lightning. In the latter example, the strike is three times hotter and many times starts a fire. Lightning travels at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second). This quick blast of energy only lasts just a few millionths of a second, up to 100 million volts, and reaches a peak temperature of 60,000 degrees Fahrenheit. As a result, the air around it is super-heated and causes shock waves that crash together producing loud booms we know as thunder. Thunder travels at the speed of sound (1,090 feet per second) Therefore, it takes about five seconds to travel a mile. A single bolt of lightning can discharge about 100 million bolts of electricity and can travel as far a 10 miles from a cloud.|
|"Divide by 5" rule: You can determine the distance between yourself and a thunderstorm by counting the time, in seconds, between the lightning flash and the thunder, and dividing by 5; i.e., if thunder is heard 10 seconds after the flash, the storm is about two miles away. Play it safe...if you can hear thunder, generally, you are within striking range?|
|When viewed from a safe distance, a thunderstorm is one of nature's most awesome and beautiful displays. When you get caught by surprise and are forced to watch it "close up and personal," it can be a very frightening and even deadly experience! Top|
|In a study by the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI),
it shows that more lightning casualties occur at home.
Out of 1,000 incidents, most occurred (in descending order):
1. on the telephone
2. in the kitchen
3. doing laundry
4. watching television
5. at a door or open window
|In another three-year study by LPI, damages to
unprotected houses were examined. Results showed the
following strike points, in descending order of frequency:
1. roof and projections
2. television antenna
3. overhead power line
4. adjacent tree
|The Lightning Protection Institute recommends the
following protection standards:
|Lightning is hard on trees. Thousands of trees are
struck by lightning each day. Trees are usually the
tallest objects in the landscape. Their deep roots make
them nature's natural lightning rods, able to easily pass
electric current from the air down into the ground.
Taller trees are more likely to be hit, not only because of their height but also because they are more likely to suffer root or stem decay. As a result, the plant tissue is wetter and makes a better conductor. Lightning is nature's way of eliminating old, sick trees. Lightning damage may be minor or severe. Often, damaged trees become victims of further damage from insects, diseases, or wind.
|Myth - Lightning never strikes in the same place
Fact - The Empire State Building is struck about 23
times in an average year.
Myth - In medieval times church bells were rung during thunderstorms, because people thought the sound waves from the bells would suppress the lightning. Fact - This belief was discarded when one historian noted that in a 33-year period, 386 church towers were struck and 103 bellringers killed.
Myth - Lightning follows the most direct path to the ground. Fact - It has been known to travel through clear air and strike 10 miles from the storm like a "bolt from the blue!"
Myth - Rubber-soled shoes protect you from a lightning shock. Fact - It is unreasonable and suicidal to think that something so powerful as lightning can be stopped by a half-inch of rubber.
Myth - Rubber tires on a car protect you from the strike. Fact - Actually, it's not the tires. The metal body conducts the current around you, to the ground, providing windows are rolled up and you are not touching the metal. Not the case if it's a convertible, utility, or 4x4 vehicle with a fiberglass roof!