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Media Release from 6/28/15: Forest Lakes, AZ – A lighting strike in the Mogollon Rim area caused the death of a young female and injured several others when they sought shelter underneath a ponderosa pine tree during a thunder storm.
The Northern Arizona Regional 911 Center in Flagstaff, AZ received an emergency call around 4:20 PM Saturday June 27, 2015 for several people injured by a lighting strike.
Coconino County Sheriff’s deputies as well as United States Forest Service law enforcement officers, Blue Ridge Fire Department, Pine-Strawberry Fire Department and the Forest Lakes Fire Department responded to the location off of forest service road 321, just north of the Rim Road in the Blue Ridge area. This area is approximately half way between State Route 87 and Forest Lakes. Prior to emergency personnel’s arrival, dispatchers received the report of a female in the group who was not breathing and of several others who had unknown injuries.
It took responders a considerable amount of time to reach the victims due to the remote location of the incident. Medics and law enforcement officers found a 24 year-old female deceased and seven other victims with varying degrees of injuries.
It is believed the hiking group left the Phoenix area on Friday evening, travelling to the Mogollon Rim for a weekend of camping and hiking. On Saturday the group was on a hiking trip when they were caught by a severe thunder and lightning storm causing them to seek shelter underneath a stand of Ponderosa Pine trees.
Initial reports from on-scene Deputies indicated lighting struck one of the pine trees where the group stood, knocking most of them to the ground. Members of the group attempted to resuscitate 24 year old Christine Garcia of Orlando, FL who was not breathing however they were unsuccessful and she died at the scene. It does not appear the lightning strike hit anyone directly.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety Air Ranger helicopter based out of Flagstaff responded to the scene. DPS Air Rescue was able to fly a critically injured male to the Flagstaff Medical Level One Trauma Center, where he is being treated for unknown injuries. Three less critical patients, two males and one female were transported by ground ambulance to Payson Regional Hospital for unknown injuries. Medical helicopters assigned closer to the area were unable to respond due to the storm cell over the area.
This investigation is being continued by the Coconino County Medical Examiner’s Office, the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office and the United States Forest Service.
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Media Contact: Gerry Blair, Coconino County Sheriff's Office, 928-226-5089