Bell calls for focus on safety after lightning death
June 18, 2006
SEOUL — U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. B.B. Bell has directed his leaders to push a safety message to the troops following a recent training fatality.
Pfc. Jesus A. Najera, 19, was killed June 10 when he was struck by lightning during an operational field exercise at Gwangju Air Base. Three other soldiers were injured by the lightning strike.
The soldiers, with the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, were attempting to right a tent in which they’d been sheltering after it had blown over.
Bell stated that the best method for keeping aware during thunderstorms and lightning, both in garrison and field training, is to monitor weather reports.
“This is a command and leadership responsibility,” he wrote. “The loss of this soldier is a tragedy for us all. We must learn from this and ensure we take maximum precautions during periods of thunderstorms and lightning activities.”
Bell also wrote that he wants commanders and leaders to “intensely educate and supervise” troops to guard against other fatalities.
Bell added this list of safety tips to be directed by leaders, and followed by troops, if they find themselves in a thunderstorm with potential lightning:
If you are caught outside … seek shelter in a sturdy structure or in a hard-top vehicle. Sit with your hands in your lap. Electronic communications equipment should be shut off, if possible; use only if absolutely necessary.Refrain from using telephones if possible. Avoid large metallic pieces of equipment and try to stay away from vehicles loaded with explosives or ammunition.When caught in the open, stay away from tall trees or … the highest points in an area. In a wooded area, seek shelter under a thick growth of small trees. Avoid tall objects, isolated trees, bodies of water, sheds and fences.If you are part of a group and in the open, spread out and squat down in an attempt to keep as low a profile as possible while keeping both feet planted firmly on the ground. Do not sit or lie on the ground.Most lightning strikes occur after a thunderstorm has passed. Wait approximately 30 minutes after the storm passes to resume activities.If you see lightning, begin counting seconds; if you hear thunder within 30 seconds, you are in a hazard area.The June 10 incident remains under investigation.