Pocono reveals more details in lightning strike tragedy

2:48 PM, Aug 6, 2012   |    comments
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Long Pond, PA (Sports Network) - Officials from Pocono Raceway have provided more information regarding Sunday's lightning strikes that killed one race fan and injured several others following the conclusion of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event.

On Monday, Monroe County Coroner Bob Allen identified the deceased as Brian Zimmerman, a 41-year-old resident of Moosic, Pa. Zimmerman was pronounced dead at roughly 7 p.m. (ET) when he arrived at the Pocono Medical Center in nearby East Stroudsburg.

Officials said the nine other individuals injured as a result of two separate lightning strikes were transferred to local hospitals. One fan was transported to Lehigh Hospital in Allentown and listed in critical condition. However, that person's condition was upgraded to stable on Monday.

The identities of the nine injured victims have yet to be released. Some of them were treated at the racetrack's infield medical care center, while others were transported to the hospital, where they remained overnight for treatment and observation.

"On behalf of the entire staff here at Pocono Raceway, we are deeply saddened by yesterday's tragic events," track officials said in a statement. "As mentioned, our fans are like family to us, and we express our deepest condolences to the individuals and families involved, especially Mr. Zimmerman's.

"We work in conjunction with NASCAR regarding safety of fans, teams and other attendees throughout the course of our race weekends. Additionally, we are in constant communication with local and national agencies regarding weather conditions and emergency services."

According to officials, the first lightning strike occurred at approximately 5:01 p.m. local time in the track's grandstand parking area, located near Gate 5A. A Pocono Raceway grandstand fire unit was stationed in the vicinity and witnessed the actual strike.

Medical personnel and additional emergency services arrived on the scene within a matter of three minutes and took control of treatment to the individuals. CPR had already begun on Zimmerman by a friend on the scene. EMT responders were approached by those who reported symptoms related to the lightning strike.

The track's race control tower was notified of a second possible lightning strike in the vicinity near Gate 3 at approximately 6:35 p.m.

Officials also said in their statement, "The safety of all guests to Pocono Raceway is of the utmost importance to our entire staff. This tragic event is at the forefront of all of our thoughts and prayers. We will learn from the incident and continue to implement strategies to help ensure the safety of fans and all attendees at future events at Pocono Raceway. We are in the process up establishing a Memorial Fund is for victims of this incident. More information will be released a soon as possible."

The track was under a severe thunderstorm watch for most of Sunday before a warning was issued for the area shortly after 4 p.m. NASCAR officials stopped the race and called it after 98 of the scheduled 160 laps were completed. Jeff Gordon was leading when the event was halted and therefore awarded his first win of the 2012 season.

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