Lightning struck a crowded campsite parking lot Saturday afternoon in the Great Smoky Mountains National park, sending two people to the hospital, family members told WLOS.
The victims include Haywood County District Court Judge Roy Wijewickrama and a woman standing nearby, the station reported. The N.C. Judicial Branch confirmed Wijewickrama’s injury in a Facebook post wishing “a speedy recovery.”
Both victims were standing amid a group of Boy Scouts in the parking lot about 1:50 p.m. when lightning struck “about a foot away,” creating a “3-foot deep” hole in the pavement, reported WNCN.
David Wijewickrama told the station his brother, Roy Wijewickrama, “is in intensive care after suffering serious injuries that include third-degree burns.”
The woman injured with Wijewickrama was identified as the mother of one of the Scouts, according to The Mountaineer.
Witnesses told the Mountaineer the two were not directly hit, but were standing near two parked vehicles that were struck. Wijewickrama and the woman were “knocked to the ground,” but four people inside the two vehicles escaped injury, the newspaper said.
Parents rushed to help the two, who were taken to Haywood Regional Medical Center, reported Wataugaonline.com. Both are expected to recover, the news outlets said.
Balsam Mountain Campground “is located in a relatively remote part of Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” with an elevation of 5,310 feet, according to www.recreation.gov.
NOAA reports “lightning strikes the United States about 25 million times a year” and kills about 47 people annually in the country. “Hundreds more are severely injured,” says NOAA.