Lightning strikes at Pocono kill one race fan, injure others

8/5/2012 6:14:10 PM

The incident occurred in the parking lot behind the grandstands at the racetrack. It happened just before 5 p.m. (ET) when a severe thunderstorm moved through the area, producing heavy rain and fierce lightning.

Track president Brandon Igdalsky confirmed the fan died while en route to Pocono Medical Center in nearby East Stroudsburg, Pa. One fan was transported to Lehigh Hospital in Allentown and listed in critical condition. Three others were sent to local hospitals for less severe injuries. Five received treatment at the track's medical care center and were later released.

The identity of the fan killed and those injured were not released.

"Our thoughts and prayers with those involved in today's lightning strike at the Raceway," track officials said in a statement. "Unfortunately, one of our fans, who was critically injured, was pronounced (dead on arrival) at the Pocono Medical Center in Stroudsburg...We ask for our fans to please keep all affected, and their families, in your prayers."

The track was under a severe thunderstorm watch for most of the day before a warning was issued for the area shortly after 4 p.m. local time. 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.

"We were walking down pit road, the umbrellas weren't doing any good and there was a huge, huge crack from lightning," Gordon said. "You could tell it was very close. That's the thing that's going to take away from the victory is the fact that somebody was affected by that."

Gordon received the news of the effected fans when he was conducting his post- race press conference.

"That's just so unfortunate, because (the fans) are so loyal and avid here, so you hate to hear something like that," he said. "Certainly our thoughts are with them."