South Africa news February 13, 2013

SA schoolboy cricketers hit by lightning

ESPNcricinfo staff

Two schoolboy cricketers in Johannesburg remain in intensive care after being struck by lightning and needing resuscitation while pulling on the covers during a practice session on Tuesday.

Nine players from King Edward VII School, where Graeme Smith was a pupil, were hit during the incident with five needing hospital treatment although three of those were released on Wednesday. The school cancelled its fixtures for Wednesday and counselling has been offered to those involved. Two of the players struck are understood to be part of the Gauteng Under-19 set-up.

An off-duty paramedic, Mike Russell, who had been at the school to watch his son's cricket match before it was cancelled because of the storm, was able to give CPR to two boys who had suffered cardiac arrest.

"It's basically a miracle to get two patients out of cardiac arrest using basic CPR," he told the Star. "The storm came up really quickly. When the second lightning bolt hit, we still had guys walking off the field."

Smith offered his thoughts to the injured. "It's an unfortunate tragedy that has happened to the KES boys. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their loved ones and families during this difficult and sad time. The Proteas would like to wish the nine boys a speedy recovery, and we hope to see them back on the cricket field as soon as possible."

The headmaster, David Lovett, said in a statement: "I would like to thank all the members of the King Edward community for ongoing support, and in particular would like to thank all those involved in the medical care offered to our boys yesterday."

Lightning is common on the South African Highveld, especially in the summer, and does not always have to be accompanied by rain. There was a recent case of other school children being struck by lightning as they walked home in nearby Soweto.

In schools matches it is down to the teachers to decide when conditions become too dangerous to continue. Umpires at international level are also quick to take players off if there are thunderstorms close to the ground.

Simon Gear, a climatologist, told the Star this area of South Africa has the highest incidence of strikes in the world in relation to the size of the land area. "It sounds like the teachers did get the cricketers off the field… but if sport is stopped every time there are thunderclouds, there'd be no sport played in the country."

The South African Weather service said more than 260 are killed by lightning in the country each year.

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