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Thursday, April 28, 2011

3 teams, clear skies, then lightning - Grand Rapids
Updated: Thursday, 28 Apr 2011, 9:22 AM EDT
Published : Wednesday, 27 Apr 2011, 1:24 PM EDT

By Ken Kolker
PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) - The 20-year-old man struck by lightning in a Portage park Tuesday night is now listed in good condition at a local hospital, and sources told 24 Hour News 8 he would not have survived without a bystander giving him CPR.

Oscar Garcia was struck by lightning high up in his body -- likely in his head. The charge went through him, knocked his cleats off, dispersed through the ground and injured at least 11 other people. At one point, Garcia's heart stopped.

At the time the lightning hit at 6:50 p.m., witnesses told 24 Hour News 8 there were three soccer teams practicing -- two mens teams and an under-14 team -- at Westfield Park on West Milham Road.

Of the 12 people hurt, three were children. Seven were taken to a hospital by ambulance and five others sought treatment on their own.

The National Weather Service issued a thunderstorm warning at 6:04 p.m. Tuesday for Kalamazoo County. About 45 minutes later, while that warning was still in effect, the soccer field remained crowded with players.

"We were aware there were storms in the area," said Levi Butcher, a junior team coach. "We had just thought they had parted. We had no warning about it being issued a warning -- just a watch."

Witnesses saw a clear blue sky with dark clouds to the west. Then lightning, a short burst of hail and a double rainbow in the space of 10 minutes.

"We hear some, we see some, but it was far away," said Jesus Vargas, one of the injured men. "We see the lightning, but not where we was, because it wasn't even raining or anything. It was fine, and this one -- it just come like that, you know."

Firefighters said Wednesday this incident should serve as a warning about the dangers of lightning.

"This is just a tragic example of what happens when people are out in an exposed area when lightning strikes," said Randolph Lawton, the Portage fire chief.

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