News

Sophomore dies in lightning strike accident

University of Miami sophomore Lee Weisbrod died Saturday, July 22, when he was struck by lightning in Montvale, New Jersey. He was 19.

Weisbrod, who lived nearby in River Vale, New Jersey, and three friends were playing soccer at a softball field when it started to rain, according to media reports. The teens were heading toward shelter when the lightning struck Weisbrod and his friend Steven Fagan, 18.

The two boys were transported to a local hospital within an hour and were pronounced dead upon arrival. According to the New York Times, Weisbrod and Fagan died “of severe burns and trauma” caused by the lightning strike. The other two teens were treated for minor injuries, media reports said.

Weisbrod was a student in the School of Business majoring in business management and organization. His father told the media that Weisbrod was interested in working in the music business.

Robyn Fisher, rabbinic director at UM’s Hillel Jewish Student Center, said Hillel is planning a memorial for Weisbrod, who was Jewish, in the next month.

“His death was shocking and just so random,” Fisher said. “A number of his friends need some closure. We want to try to bring some comfort to them, and to honor his life.”

Ricardo Hall, the new dean of students who started his job over the summer, said he has spoken briefly to Weisbrod’s father several times, to serve as a “point person” between the family and the university.

Hall said students should know that lightning is dangerous.

“I don’t know if anything good can come from this tragedy,” Hall said. “But raising awareness is important.”

The university has had a lightning prediction system called ThorGuard since 2004.

If conditions for lightning strikes exist, the alarm will sound for 15 seconds from sirens around campus. The alarm, which can be heard from up to a half a mile away, is meant to warn people outdoors, particularly those using athletic fields and the UC Pool, to find shelter. Once the alarm sounds, a yellow strobe light is activated and remains on until the lightning danger has passed – usually at least 10 minutes after the last lightning has been detected.

The alarm also gives an all-clear signal – three short blasts – once danger has passed. The system is effective from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., to comply with the City of Coral Gables noise ordinance.The same alarm system is used in the Granada and Riviera golf courses in Coral Gables, and in the men’s and women’s professional golfing tours, according to the Office of Media Relations.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which refers to lightning as “the underrated killer,” lightning is the second-most frequent weather-related killer in the United States, after floods and flash floods. Florida ranked number one in lightning deaths from 1995 to 2004, and summer is the peak season for lightning, according to NOAA’s website.

Patricia Mazzei may be contacted at pmazzei@miami.edu.

August 29, 2006

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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published in print every Tuesday.