Lightning kills two women in Hyde Park

TWO YOUNG women died when they were struck by lightning as they sheltered under a tree during a sudden and violent thunderstorm.

They were found by a cavalry officer exercising his horse at Hyde Park in central London yesterday morning. They are thought to have died the previous evening.

The discovery of the bodies led, at first, to a murder hunt with teams of detectives from Scotland Yard arriving at the Rose Garden, near Serpentine Road, less than 200 yards away from rush-hour traffic. However, a pathologist who examined the victims concluded they had been killed by lightning.

The two women, who were of South-east Asian origin, were found lying close together and fully clothed. One, who was lying on her back, had most of her hair burnt away. Neither of the women is thought to have had any visible injuries apart from burn marks. Initial tests are said to have indicated they were holding hands when the lightning struck.

A senior police source said the women were probably killed at about 6pm on Wednesday. "It appears that lightning has struck the tree and shot down the trunk. One of the women had her back to the tree trunk and the lightning has gone down her back, ripped open her shirt and come out through her feet.

"They were, we think, seeking shelter from the storm when this happened."

The thunderstorm came during a night of severe weather across southern Britain. At Pagham, near Bognor Regis in West Sussex, more than 50 buildings were damaged and boats were lifted from their moorings when a mini-tornado swept through the area in the early hours. A garage was destroyed, and the resulting debris smashed through double-glazing at a nearby house, a Sussex Police spokesman said.

Weather experts described the deaths of the two women in Hyde Park as extraordinary. The chances of being struck by lightning are about one in three million, and there are no statistics for a double strike. In an average year in Britain, 24 people are struck by lightning and five are killed. Worldwide, about a thousand people are killed by lightning each year.

A small thunderstorm carries the power of about 10 Hiroshima bombs and one lightning bolt can carry up to a million volts of electricity travelling at the speed of light.

Although lightning strikes are rare, tall buildings are at much greater risk of being hit. The Empire State Building in New York is hit, on average, 20 times a year.

The worst incident on record happened in 1963, when lightning struck a Pan Am Boeing 707 over Maryland in the United States, igniting a fuel tank. A total of 81 people were killed.

The most bizarre statistic involves a man from California who was struck seven times during his life. He died in 1983, from natural causes.

To minimise the risk of being struck by lightning, experts advise people to stay away from metal objects - either indoors or outdoors - such as golf clubs and bicycles. Swimming is also hazardous as lightning can be conducted through water.

If caught outside in a severe storm, people are advised to crouch as low as possible, with feet together and hands on knees. They should avoid sheltering near tall objects. Lying down can be dangerous because lightning striking the ground can send a surge of voltage across the wet surface.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor