Hikers injured by lightning brought safely from the mountains

Kranj/Mojstrana – Hikers who were injured by lightning during a storm in the area of Mt Triglav in the Julian Alps on Friday and spent the night at a hut on Mt Kredarica under the supervision of a doctor and mountain rescuers have been safely transported from the mountain, the Kranj police said this morning. Among them were two foreigners.

Two of the 18 hikers were transported to the UKC Ljubljana hospital by an army helicopter at 8:30pm on Friday as they sustained severe injuries, while the remaining 16 spent the night at Mt Kredarica as the rescue effort was hampered by the storm.

The first group of injured hikers were airlifted from Mt Kredarica before 6am this morning, the Kranj Police Department said.

According to police, all hikers have been safely brought down from the mountain and are feeling fine.

The accident happened around 3pm in the area of Mt Mali Triglav, a 2,725-metre peak, as the mountaineers were en route from Mt Triglav, the country’s tallest mountain, towards Mt Kredarica, 2,515 metres.

As they were descending, light rain started to fall and thick fog covered the mountain. As lightning strikes begun, the hikers unhooked themselves from the wire rope and moved away from it, and most also switched off their mobile devices, rescuers told the press today.

But lighting still struck the area where the hikers were at least three times a few minutes before 3pm. At least two persons were struck directly, one woman was allegedly struck twice. The other hikers were thrown around on the rocks. Two persons sustained serious injuries and the rest mild.

The hikers called rescuers themselves but the rescue was very demanding due to extremely bad weather conditions and the large number of injured people.

Pilot Primož Škufca from the police air force unit said a helicopter could not take off immediately because of the storm on Mt Triglav, while just before nightfall the conditions improved enough for it to take the two severely injured hikers to the Ljubljana UKC hospital.

The head of the rescue operation, Iztok Arnol, said it had been determined just after 7pm that due to weather conditions classic rescue was not possible either so the decision had been made to have the remaining 16 hikers spend the night in the mountains.

This morning, a police helicopter transported five of them to the Jesenice general hospital, and 11 to the Ljubljana UKC hospital, where they staid for a 24-hour observation.

According to doctor and mountain rescuer Primož Trunk all the hikers had luckily been stable. In most cases, people’s nervous system was affected with the injured feeling pins and needles in different parts of their body. Some also had burns in spots where the lightning entered and exited the body.

A lightning struck also often causes arrhythmias, Trunk said.

According to information gathered so far, all of the injured were adults and two of them were foreigners. They helped each other descend to Mt Kredarica where they could be assisted by mountain rescuers.

“It was actually a very lucky day. It is almost unbelievable that nobody was killed,” Arnol said, noting this was one of the largest such accidents in the Slovenian mountains ever and that no such accident had happened for a long time.

He thanked everyone involved in the rescue efforts. Between 30 and 40 mountain rescuers and many others participated in the rescue operation.

Two hikers were also struck by lightening near the Valentin Stanič hut below Triglav on Friday, but they were not injured.

Rescuers urged hikers and climbers to head to the mountains early in the morning, pick routes carefully and have enough warm clothing and food and water with them.