Men 5 times more likely to be killed by lightning in U.S. than women

Men are more than five times more likely to be killed by lightning strikes in the United States than women, according to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control.

A total of 3,389 Americans were killed by lightning from 1968 through 2010, according to the CDC. Of them, 85 percent were male, the CDC said. A similar report, released in 1998, found that 85 percent of those killed by lightning from 1980 through 1995 were male. (The CDC excluded deaths indirectly caused by lightning, including fires and fallen trees, from the total.)

The center did not offer a reason for the disproportionate number of lightning deaths for men, saying only that the number of deaths for both males and females from lightning is declining.

From 1968 to 2010, deaths from lightning in the United States decreased 78.6 percent among males and 70.6 percent among females, according to data culled from the National Vital Statistics System. During the 43-year period, an average of 79 lightning deaths per year was recorded, with the most coming in 1969, when 131 people were struck and killed.

The CDC did not publish data on the number of lightning strike survivors, like Michael McQuilken, who in 1975 was struck along with his brother and several other hikers in Sequoia National Park.

McQuilken wrote about his experience earlier this year:

My brothers Sean and Jeff, my sister Mary and her friend Margie, and I were on our way to the top of Moro Rock, a rounded exfoliation dome and one of the favorite attractions in the park. The sky was overcast with patches of dark clouds, and there was light, intermittent rain. Shortly after we reached the top and were enjoying the view with about six other visitors, someone noticed that our hair was standing on end. At the time, we thought this was humorous. I took a photo of Mary, and then Mary took a photo of Sean and me. I raised my right hand into the air and the ring I had on began to buzz so loudly that everyone could hear it. Everyone was in a jovial mood, even laughing, at the site of our hair sticking up. No one realized what was happening and that we were all in great danger of a lightning strike. All of a sudden I felt a strong drop in the temperature. At one moment it was 65 to 70 degrees, and the next moment it felt like it was below freezing. There was no wind, but it immediately started to hail. We decided to get down off of the rock, not for fear of lightning, but to avoid the pelting hail.

About halfway down, Moro Rock and a smaller granite prominence converge, producing a narrow saddle. When Sean reached this point, I was about 10 feet behind him, with Mary, Margie and Jeff behind me. Suddenly, I was immersed in the brightest light I have ever seen. I moved my head from side to side and all I could see was bright white light, similar in appearance to arc welding light. This next part is strange. I distinctly remember feeling weightless, and that my feet were no longer touching the ground. For some reason, it felt like a number of seconds transpired, even though I realize that lightning strikes are instantaneous. A deafening explosion followed, and I found myself on the ground with the others. Sean was collapsed and huddled on his knees. Smoke was pouring from his back. I rushed over to him and checked his pulse and breathing. He was still alive. I put out the embers on his back and elbows and carried him down the path towards the parking lot, with the rest of the group following.

We had almost reached the parking lot when we found a woman beating furiously on her husband’s chest. His skin was blue and there was a small burn mark near his heart. Mary and the others took Sean down to the parking lot and I stayed and helped with CPR until the paramedics arrived. Unfortunately, the man, Lawrence Brady, died.

Another man who was struck by lightning survived, "but the camera he was holding was blown into quarter-inch fragments, and his clothing had disintegrated leaving only the seams of his jacket and pants. All of the hair on his body was completely burned off."

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