A Norwegian woman was killed on Saturday when she was struck by lightning while racing in an Italian ultramarathon, the race’s organizers confirmed on social media.
The tragedy occurred during a rainstorm in the seventh edition of the 75-mile Südtirol Ultra Skyrace, which takes place in Bolzano, Italy and cuts through the Dolomite Mountains, according to Runners World.
In a Facebook post, the race’s organizers said the woman — a 44-year-old runner who has not been publically identified — was hit by lightning around 7:15 p.m. near Lago di San Pancrazio, a lake in Italy. The race had actually been canceled 30 minutes before the accident occurred due to weather conditions, and organizers were stopping the runners at aid stations along the route. But the woman was still in between aid stations and hadn’t yet been informed of the event’s stoppage.
“About 30 minutes before the accident, the race had been stopped due to the weather conditions and the athletes held up at Antran, the Rifugio Punta Cervina and the Rifugio Kesselberg,” Südtirol Ultra Skyrace said in a statement on their Facebook page.
“Some athletes though were on their way between these spots and could not be reached by the track marshals. Among them there was the group with the Norwegian runner,” the statement continued.
Runners who witnessed the lightning strike called emergency services. The woman was later flown by helicopter to a nearby hospital, but she did not survive her injuries.
“After first aid, the injured athlete was flown to Bolzano hospital by the rescue helicopter Pelikan I, where she succumbed to her injuries,” Südtirol Ultra Skyrace explained in their post.
Survivors of lightning strikes can experience cardiac arrest, severe burns, hearing loss and neurological afflictions that may lead to personality changes, mood swings and memory loss.
The United States experiences about 25 million lightning strikes a year, which kill an average of 47 people annually, reports the National Weather Service. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says men are much more likely to be hit by lightning than women, as they make up some 85 percent of fatalities.
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Through 2019, there have only been 10 deaths by lightning reported in the country, the NWS says.
“We are shocked and deeply shaken by this tragic accident”, Josef Günther Mair, chair of the Organising Committee of the Südtirol Ultra Skyrace, said in the statement. “We express our deepest condolences to the family of the athlete.”