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Does a Sixth Mechanism Exist to Explain Lightning Injuries?: Investigating a Possible New Injury Mechanism to Determine the Cause of Injuries Related to Close Lightning Flashes

Blumenthal, Ryan MBChB, MMed*; Jandrell, Ian R. PrEng, BSc(Eng) GDE PhD, FSAIEE, MIEEE; West, Nicholas J. BSc(Eng)Elec, MSC Eng(Electrical), PhD, MSAIEE

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology: September 2012 - Volume 33 - Issue 3 - p 222–226
doi: 10.1097/PAF.0b013e31822d319b
Original Articles

Five mechanisms have been described in the literature regarding lightning injury mechanisms. A sixth mechanism is proposed in this article, namely, lightning barotrauma. A simple laboratory experiment was conducted using ordnance gelatin for ballistic studies. Lightning was simulated in a high-voltage laboratory using an 8/20-microsecond current impulse generator and discharged through ballistic gel. Temporary and permanent cavity formations were confirmed. The cavities formed were directly proportional to the currents used. Findings suggest that a sixth mechanism of lightning injury, namely, barotrauma, should be considered.

From the *Department of Forensic Medicine, University of Pretoria, Pretoria; and †School of Electrical and Information Engineering, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Manuscript received February 3, 2011; accepted June 21, 2011.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Reprints: Ryan Blumenthal, MBChB, MMed, Department of Forensic Medicine, University of Pretoria, PO Box 2034, 0001, Pretoria, South Africa. E-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.