Paramedics rushed to Ooh-Aah Point on a popular trail at Grand Canyon National Park in the US state of Arizona after a witness called the park’s communication centre to report seeing a man struck by lightning.
There they found the body of a young man, later identified as Jonathan Crowden, a 21-year-old Australian from Ballarat.
Crowden had set out to hike alone late on Sunday afternoon and fell victim to a natural hazard of the area – lightning strike.
While being hit by lighting is rare, it is not profoundly rare. On its website, the US National Park Service says September is one of the three most dangerous months for lightning strikes in the Grand Canyon.
“Summer thunderstorms (July – September) provide beauty, excitement, and much needed water to Grand Canyon, but they also bring risk,” the park authority’s website states.
“Dangerous, potentially deadly, lightning accompanies thunderstorms. Lightning has killed and injured visitors to the park.”
Efforts to resuscitate Crowden failed and he was pronounced dead at the scene, park spokeswoman Kirby-Lynn Shedlowski said.
A report on ABC News said the tragic incident at Ooh-Aah Point marked the eighth confirmed death at the park this year. On 28 August 2015, a 51-year-old Arizona man fell to his death while hiking near the Colorado River.
The spectacular Grand Canyon is one of the most popular outdoor tourist venues in the US – and in the world. It drew more than 4.7 million visitors in 2014.
The dramatic beauty is not without danger. About 600 deaths have occurred in the Grand Canyon since the 1870s. Statistics show aircraft and helicopter crashes are the main threat, having killed 242 people (128 of them in a major collision between two commercial airliners over the Canyon in 1956).
A further 53 deaths have resulted from falls; 65 deaths were attributable to environmental causes such as heatstroke, dehydration and hypothermia (that number includes heart attack, which can sometimes result from environmental stress or unaccustomed exertion); seven victims were caught in flash floods; 79 drowned in the Colorado River and 23 were the victims of homicides.
A further 25 perished in “freak errors and accidents” – a category which includes rock falls and lightning strikes, like the latest fatal event at Ooh-Aah Point.
Written by Peter Needham