Fishing Tops Activities For Lightning Deaths

By Ryck Lydecker

 

Photo of lightning striking the ground

Since 2006, lightning has killed 152 people engaged in outdoor leisure activities and, no, golfing is not at the top of the list; it’s fishing, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

In a recent study of all 238 lightning deaths over the past seven years, the agency determined that 152 could be associated with leisure activities and that anglers accounted for 26 of those deaths, followed by campers (15 deaths), and boaters with 14 deaths.

NWS says the large number of fishing, camping, and boating lightning deaths may be because these activities require extra time to get to a safe place.

Since 2006, lightning has killed 152 people engaged in outdoor leisure activities and, no, golfing is not at the top of the list; it’s fishing, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

In a recent study of all 238 lightning deaths over the past seven years, the agency determined that 152 could be associated with leisure activities and that anglers accounted for 26 of those deaths, followed by campers (15 deaths), and boaters with 14 deaths.

NWS says the large number of fishing, camping, and boating lightning deaths may be because these activities require extra time to get to a safe place.

"People often wait far too long to head to safety when a storm is approaching, and that puts them in a dangerous and potentially deadly situation," said John Jensenius, an NWS lightning safety specialist.

Statistically, the chances of death from lightning are 1 in 126,158, according to the National Safety Council. Nonetheless, lightning killed 14 anglers fishing from boats and 11 fishing from shore, with one fishing in the water. An analysis of accident records showed that at least five boat anglers did not appear to be seeking safe shelter at all. Of the 14 general boating deaths, only eight appeared to be headed to safety. Jensenius says that lightning can strike from 10 miles away: “If you can hear thunder, you can be struck.”

The most important preventive measure for boaters, according to the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water, is to get off the water, if you can. A VHF radio or good weather app on your smartphone can warn you of an approaching storm with enough time to get to safety. If you can’t, the Foundation offers these personal safety tips:

  • Lower any radio antennas and unplug electronics
  • Stay low in the boat
  • Try to be in the center of the boat
  • Don’t touch anything metallic if possible
  • NEVER touch any two objects that might be connected to the boat’s grounding system
  • Try to stay dry
  • If you’re fishing, stop. Fishing rods are excellent electrical conductors
  • Stay out of the water!

Lightning safety information and tips for protecting the boat are included in the Foundation’s free online boating safety course: www.BoatUS.com/Foundation