Eight people injured after lightning strikes sailboat on Lake Superior off DuluthUPDATE: A 26-foot private sailboat was hit by lighting near the end of Minnesota Point late Saturday afternoon, injuring eight people on board, including a 9-year-old boy who lost a pulse for a time, authorities said.
By: Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune
A 26-foot private sailboat was hit by lightning near the end of Minnesota Point late Saturday afternoon, injuring all eight people on board, authorities said.
Most critically injured was a 9-year-old boy who lost a pulse for a time and had CPR performed on him.
The boy’s condition was unclear by the News Tribune’s press time.
The boy was found face-down in the water by his 5-year-old brother, who turned him over, according to Duluth Assistant Fire Chief Jarry Keppers. The other passengers started CPR on him, which was continued by rescue workers who got a pulse back.
The boy was in very serious condition when airlifted from the site by LifeLink Helicopter, he said.
The group was near the sailboat when it was struck by lightning. They included a mother and father and the two boys, a grandmother and grandfather, and a couple who were friends of the family, according to Keppers.
“Everyone was injured at least somewhat,” Keppers said. At least three of the adults were seriously hurt.
The lightning struck the sailboat about 5:30 p.m. while it was ashore. The boat was on the lake side between the rip rap and the break wall of Wisconsin Point, authorities said.
The boat had been brought to shore, seeking refuge from the storm.
The Duluth Fire Department and the St. Louis County Rescue Squad were called out to the site about 5:30 p.m. as storms passed through the area. The boat was about three miles from the Sky Harbor Airport at the end of Minnesota Point near the Superior entry.
Because of the difficulty getting to the remote site, which is about two miles from a road, about 25 minutes elapsed before the firefighters arrived by boat. Other responders followed by boat, all-terrain vehicles, and on foot, Keppers said.
“It’s one of the more remote areas of the city aside from areas of the Munger Trail,” Keppers said. “At least here, we can use boats.”
Meanwhile, ambulances were standing by, and local hospitals were alerted to be ready for multiple injuries.
The critically injured boy was airlifted from the boat site to Essentia Health St. Mary’s Medical Center. All the others were taken by boat to Sky Harbor Airport or the Duluth Coast Guard Station. From there, they were taken by land ambulance to St. Mary’s or St. Luke’s hospital, Keppers said.
The last of the injured was on the way to a hospital by ambulance shortly after 7 p.m. The names of the injured weren’t available Saturday night.
Authorities requested that the Aerial Lift Bridge be kept down during the rescue response. It was back in operation at 7:10 p.m., able to be raised for marine traffic. About an hour later, the sailboat that was struck was towed by the St. Louis County Rescue Squad to Fraser Shipyards in Superior.
The incident happened as scattered thunderstorms moved across the Northland from north to south on Saturday afternoon when a cold front moved through the area.
At 5:33 p.m. Saturday, about the time of the reported lightning strike, the National Weather Service in Duluth issued a severe thunderstorm warning for parts of Douglas County as one of the scattered storm cells strengthened near the city of Superior. The storm, moving southeast at the time, was reported to be capable of producing large hail and damaging winds, although the Weather Service did not relay any spotter reports of severe weather as of Saturday evening.
Earlier Saturday afternoon, at 3:05 p.m. and again at 4:58 p.m., the Weather Service issued “marine weather statements” warning mariners to be aware of thunderstorms moving across the waters of western Lake Superior, capable of producing gusty winds, small hail and lightning strikes.
Staff writer Andrew Krueger contributed to this report.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this report stated seven people had been injured.