Lightning death: Teens praised for trying to save man's life

Tweed Byron Local Area Commander Superintendent Wayne Starling fronts the media over the fatal lightning strike at Mt Warning earlier this morning.
Tweed Byron Local Area Commander Superintendent Wayne Starling fronts the media over the fatal lightning strike at Mt Warning earlier this morning. Scott Powick

UPDATE 8.45pm: POLICE have confirmed the couple at the centre of a fatal lightning strike atop Mt Warning were American tourists holidaying in Australia.

Police media tonight confirmed the man who was fatally struck by lightning was a 24-year-old US citizen, while his female partner was 23 years old and also a citizen of the US.

The woman was taken to Murwillumbah Hospital suffering from shock and neck injuries.

The pair are believed to have been holidaying in Australia when tragedy struck while they were camping at the summit of the mountain, also known locally by its Aboriginal name of Wollumbin.

Police declined to identify the names of the victims, as they continue to make contact with their next of kin in the US.

Earlier, it was revealed the deceased's foot was touching a tree when the lightning struck.


UPDATE 3.30pm: POLICE have praised two Queensland teens for their quick response in helping to revive a man struck by lightning at Mt Warning early today.

Tweed/Bryon LAC Superintendent Wayne Starling said the teens had done their best under "traumatic circumstances".

"They've got to be proud of the effort they made to save another human's life," Supt Starling said.

"They should have no baggage from what happened up on the mountain today.

"The lady didn't appear to be seriously injured at the time.

"Their main priority was trying to save the male that was deceased."

Supt Starling said the deceased man and injured woman were both aged in their twenties and were foreign tourists who decided to camp on the mountain last night.

"They'd pitched their tent to a tree and just shortly prior to 4.50am this morning lightning struck the tree and went through the tree," he said.

"It appears it may have touched the male's seat in the tent and sadly killed him.

"Inquiries have been made to notify and locate the family at the moment."

Supt Starling said the two teens who stumbled upon the emergency scene were not concerned about the weather conditions when they started their hike early this morning.

"According to the people this morning who were hiking up the mountain that found the deceased, they said the conditions at the base of the mountain were fine," he said.

"It was only as they went further up the mountain they found the conditions had changed severely."

Supt Starling said he was impressed by the hard work of the rescue services, especially when dealing with a death.

"When people are at their worst, the rescue services are at their best," he said.

"They support each other very well in situations like this.

"It is hard for them, any death is hard. Especially when you look at the age of the person involved was in his 20s. Many of the rescue operators have children the same age so it's hard for them."

The rescue services who arrived on the scene included the ambulance, the national parks and wildlife, the SES, the RFS and the VRA.

"There were 35 people in the whole operation, and about 15 people involved in the retrieval," Supt Starling said.

Police will provide a report to the coroner.


UPDATE 1pm: A BODY has been retrieved by rescue services from Mt Warning following a lightning strike earlier today. 

A government contractors van then removed the body from the national park car park at 11.38am. 

SES Chaplian Paul von Bratt was on the scene to offer support to emergency services and also spoke with the two teens who gave initial medial assistance before the paramedics arrived. 

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"I was making sure they were okay, giving them a basic understanding of what they would experience as normal human beings responding to a critical incident," Mr von Bratt said. 

Mr von Bratt said the two teens, who were not connected to the the injured pair, were "tired but okay."

"From what I could gather from our quick conversation was they were hiking up to enjoy the sunrise, of course the weather delayed that so on their way down they were assisting," he said.

Police are yet to confirm the any more details about the victims until the next of kin have been identified.

Police are set to address the media at Tweed Heads this afternoon.


UPDATE 11.30am: A WOMAN has been taken to Murwillumbah Hospital suffering from shock and neck injuries after her tent was struck by lightning and her partner killed at Mt Warning early today.

Her partner's body is still being retrieved from the top of the mountain by rescue services, with weather conditions ruling out any assistance by helicopter services.

Tweed Byron LAC Superintendent Wayne Starling said paramedics had managed to steer the woman, who was suffering from neck injuries and shock, to the care of the hospital.

"A couple were camping in a tent at Mt Warning last night," Supt Starling said.

"About 4.50am this morning lightning struck a tree adjoining their tent. He was killed pretty much instantly."

Supt Starling said two people, believed to be teenagers hiking in the area, had tried to assist the couple before alerting authorities.

"We had two persons from Queensland try to rescucitate him for over an hour," Supt Starling.

"A woman was with him in the tent and she has received neck injuries and there is some shock. She has been conveyed to Murwillumbah Hospital."

Supt Starling said 35 emergency services workers from National Parks and Wildlife Services, Rural Fire Service, NSW Ambulance, SES and police were involved in the rescue operation.

The two teenagers, who were not connected to the injured couple, are believed to have been hiking when they came across the pair and administered medical treatment until paramedics arrived on the scene.

SES chaplain Paul von Bratt, who spoke with the teens, said they were emotionally distressed.

Further details on the victims will be released after the next of kin have been identified.

Weather conditions improving

Meanwhile, weather conditions are expected to ease at Mt Warning as rescue operations continue to retrieve the body of a man killed by lightning overnight.

Weatherzone meteorologist Kim Westcott said rainy and cloudy conditions should ease as the morning progresses, before more storms potentially move into the region from this evening.

"We are looking at clearing conditions this morning, but it will be windy and humid in the afternoon," Ms Westcott said.

"There's a slight chance of another thunderstorm later this evening and into tomorrow morning."

The Northern Rivers was drenched during severe storms early this morning with Murwillumbah bucketed by 42mm of rain over the last 24 hours, while Uki recorded a drenching of 23mm.


UPDATE 9.20am: EMERGENCY services officers are ascending the summit of Mt Warning by foot with conditions not currently suitable for an air rescue.

One man is dead and at least one woman injured after campers were hit by lightning during a storm on the peak overnight.  

A spokesman for the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter said both choppers were currently on the ground and a meeting underway to determine whether the service would be able to access the area or not.

Usually, the helicopter service is only able to travel to Mt Warning in clear conditions.

But cloud and wind is still blanketing the summit.


Tweed Byron Police duty officer Mick Dempsey confirmed police were alerted to the incident around 4.50am and officers, along with other emergency services, were climbing the summit, a five-hour long return operation.

"There was a lightning strike which we believe struck two people, there's a rescue operation underway coordinated by Tweed Byron police involving Volunteer Rescue Authority, SES, NSW Ambulance," Insp Dempsey said.

"As a result we have one male deceased and we believe one other person being treated for neck and head injuries. Emergency services are still on scene."  

A NSW Ambulance spokesperson said they were attending to the female patient.

"NSW Ambulance service were called to Mt Warning, Uki at 4.50am to respond to a female patient who was reporting soreness of neck and singed hair as result of a lightning strike," the spokesperson said.

 The age and nationality of the two are yet to be confirmed.   


UPDATE 8.35am: ONE man has been confirmed dead after two people were struck by lightning on the top of Mt Warning, near Murwillumbah, this morning.

Emergency services were alerted about 4.50am today, that at least two people had been injured by lightning.

It's believed a man and woman camped on the summit overnight; rescuers on the summit have confirmed the man has died and a woman is being treated for neck and head injuries.

The ages and nationality of the couple is yet to be confirmed.

The rescue operation is being co-ordinated by police from Tweed/Byron Local Area Command and will involve volunteers from the Volunteer Rescue Association and State Emergency Service, as well as NSW Ambulance Paramedics.

A team of about 24 rescue volunteers and police have trekked Mt Warning on foot to rescue two people struck by lightning.

Police said deploying a helicopter wasn't possible due to the stormy conditions.


TUESDAY 8am: AT least two people have been injured by lightning on the top of Mt Warning this morning.

Police NSW said a rescue operation was underway after lightning struck a group of people on the top of the mountain near Murwillumbah.

Emergency services were alerted about 4.50am today, that at least two people had been injured by the lightning.

It's believed three or four people may have camped on the summit overnight, but the sexes, age and nationality of those involved is yet to be confirmed, police said.

A rescue operation is being co-ordinated by police from Tweed/Byron Local Area Command and will involve volunteers from the Volunteer Rescue Association and State Emergency Service, as well as NSW Ambulance Paramedics.

Topics:  editors picks lightning mt warning storm weather

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