COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Lightning struck outside a soccer stadium before an MLS game, sending an off-duty firefighter who went into cardiac arrest to the hospital and forcing the postponement of the Columbus Crew’s game against FC Dallas.
The lightning strike was in the parking lot of Crew Stadium on Saturday night, but it’s not known if the off-duty lieutenant was struck directly, Columbus Fire Department Battalion Chief Tracy Smith said.
The firefighter, who was not immediately identified, had to be resuscitated, and was listed in critical condition in the intensive care unit at the Ohio State Medical Center, Smith said. She said it takes between two and three days to determine the total effects of a possible lightning strike.
The storm with heavy rain and lightning bursts rolled through about 15 minutes before the scheduled 8 p.m. kickoff. Fans were told to evacuate the stands and head toward the concourses of the double-decked stadium.
Emergency officials got calls reporting the lightning strike at about 8 p.m.
Crew fan Don Lewis told The Columbus Dispatch that he was taking cover during heavy rain in a portable toilet when he said he felt electricity run through the air and then heard someone in the toilet next to him call 911 to report that someone had been hit by lightning.
“All of a sudden it was just a bomb that went off,” Lewis told the newspaper. “I knew it was close. The electricity ran through me.”
He said he saw a man lying on the ground when he got out of the toilet.
“He was purple and had his shirt ripped off,” Lewis said.
Crew owner Anthony Precourt said on Twitter that team was sorry about the postponement, but that fans’ safety “is of the utmost importance.” Precourt also said he was praying for the injured firefighter.
The game was rescheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday. The National Weather Service forecast more showers and thunderstorms Sunday, but said they are likely to occur mainly after 5 p.m.