IP International Journal of Forensic Medicine and Toxicological Sciences

Print ISSN: 2581-9844

Online ISSN: 2456-9615

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IP International Journal of Forensic Medicine and Toxicological Sciences (IJFMTS) open access, peer-reviewed quarterly journal publishing since 2016 and is published under the Khyati Education and Research Foundation (KERF), is registered as a non-profit society (under the society registration act, 1860), Government of India with the vision of various accredited vocational courses in healthcare, education, paramedical, yoga, publication, teaching and research activity, with the aim of faster more...


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Ban Goswami and Dutta: Retrospective study of lightning fatalities in Raigarh, Chhattisgarh


Introduction

Lightning is a massive electrostatic discharge caused by the circulation of warm moisture-filled air through unbalanced electric field in the atmosphere, accompanied by the loud sound of thunder. A typical cloud to ground lightning strike can be over 5 km long.1 A typical thunderstorm may have three or more strikes per minute at its peak.2 Lightning strikes 40–50 times a second worldwide, for a total of nearly 1.4 billion flashes per year.3 Cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning accounts for 25% of lightning globally. Lightning is not distributed evenly around the planet.4 About 70% of lightning occurs on land in the tropics, where most thunderstorms occur. The north and south poles and the areas over the oceans have the fewest lightning strikes. The place where lightning occurs most often is near the small village of Kifuka in the mountains of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo5, where the elevation is around 975 meters (3,200 ft). On an average this region receives 158 lightning strikes per square kilometer a year.6 During thunderstorm the lightning flash/stroke discharge, many current peaks varying from 10,000-200,000 Amp occurring in fraction of a second affecting an area of about 30m distance.7 Because lightning can travel through air, plumbing systems, and land phone lines, it can struck people working in open fields or in their houses until 30 minutes after the final thunderclap is heard. Victims may present with minor injuries with no loss of consciousness to severe cardiopulmonary arrest or fatal injuries, however, the long-term effects on their lives and the lives of their family members can be devastating. Singh O. and Singh J. (2015)8 had concluded that Lightning is a common meteorological hazard in India.

Figure 1

Appearance of lightning in air

https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/typeset-prod-media-server/287d563c-b1ef-4f4e-920b-4f96f4cbbcf4image1.png

Epidemiology

About 240,000 incidents regarding lightning strikes happen each year.9 According to National Geographic, annually about 2,000 people are killed worldwide by lightning.10 According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, over the last 20 years, the United States averaged 51 annual lightning strike fatalities, placing it in the second position, just behind floods for deadly weather.11 Singh O. and Singh J. (2015)8 had mentionedtop 10 fatality incidents of lightning recorded in India during the period 1979–2011are as follows-

Table 0

Sl. No

Date

Year

Place

No of Victims

1

18th July

1996

Hazaribagh (Jharkhand)

39

2

6th July

2000

Balia (Uttar Pradesh)

27

3

6th June

2004

Basti and Gonda (Uttar Pradesh)

25

4

28th Sept.

2004

Nashik (Maharashtra)

31

5

19th June

2006

Hingoli (Maharashtra)

24

6

25th June

2006

Gwalior (Madhya Pradesh)

30

7

13th Mar

2007

Balia and Basti (Uttar Pradesh)

28

8

30th June

2007

Raigad (Maharashtra)

25

9

27th June

2010

Yavatmal (Maharashtra)

24

10

11th Aug

2010

Sapaul (Bihar)

52

Again Singh O. and Singh J. (2015) 8 after consideration of records of Indian Meteorological Dept. (IMD), Pune had mentioned that 5259 persons have been killed by lightning strikes in India during 1979-2011 and at the same time maximum number of lightning fatalities was observed in the states of Maharashtra (29%), followed by West Bengal (12%) and Uttar Pradesh (9%).

Review of books and literatures

Indian authoritative figures like Reddy and Murty (2014)12, Arurba Nandy (2013)13,Parikh (2014)14,Bardale (2011)15 and Pillay (2017)16 had discussed about the forensic aspect of death due to lightning. Apart from Indian authoritative figures foreign authors like- (a) Saukko P. and Knight B. (2016)17, (b) Gordon I., Shapiro H. A. and Berson S. D. (1991)18 had discussed about forensic aspect of death investigation in lightning cases. Apart from authoritative text books there are several researchers had published research work with respect to death due to lightning are appended below-

  1. Study of Gadge SJ and Shrigiriwar MB (2013)19 at. Yavatmal, Maharashtra had mentioned (1) Maximum number of death due to lightning was found between the age group of 21-30 years, followed by 11-20 years and 31-40 years. (2) Females were predominant over males. (3) Married deceased were predominant over Unmarried deceased. (4) According to occupation of the victims farmers were maximum in number followed by labourers, (5) Maximum cases were brought dead, (6) With respect to autopsy findings, in most of the cases burns over the body was found.

  2. Study of Gunethi BK and Singh UP (2015)20 at. Khammam, Telengana had mentioned — (1) Males were predominant over females, (2) Maximum cases were brought dead, (3) Maximum cases were found in the age group of 31-40 years, followed by 21-30 years of age group.(3) Maximum number of deceased belongs to agricultural workers, (4) The pattern of injuries is noted as burns over body in 94.73% cases with maximum cases having Lichtenberg figures 68.42%.

  3. Study of Shrigiriwar MB, Gadhari RK, Jadhao VT, Tingne CV, Kumar NB (2014)21 at IGGMC, Nagpur had revealed that- (1) Maximum victims were farmers and farm labourers, (2) Males were predominant over females, (3) In most of the cases victims were standing /sitting under tree, followed by working in field, (4) In most cases of deaths bodies of deceased persons were found in remote areas with torn clothes and burn injuries.

  4. Study of Manukonda R.V., Debash E., Tsegaye S., Ingale D. (2018)22 had mentioned the following findings- (1) Majority of the victims are farmers (87%) in the age group of 31-50 years (78.2%) with a male predominance ratio of 7:1, (b) Majority of the cases (74%) showed no specific findings internally, (c) Twenty six percent of the cases which showed specific internal findings ranged from petechial hemorrhages on the heart, lungs and brain to fractures of bones.

  5. Study of Prakash C. and Tayal I. (2013)23 had informed about (1) death due to direct lightning strike, (2) death due to indirect lightning strike.

Aims & Objectives

  1. Study of pattern of lightning cases

  2. Study of year and season wise distribution of cases

  3. Frequency of cases based on age, sex etc

  4. Distribution of cases based on location of incident, activity of the victim and injury pattern

Justification for the study

  1. Academic- Study of findings of lightning cases

  2. Helping investigating agencies in correct identification of cases as well as correlation with circumstantial findings.

Materials and Methods

The present cross sectional retrospective study was conducted in the department of Forensic Medicine & Toxicology at Late Shri Lakhiram Agrawal Memorial Govt. Medical College, Raigarh (CG). All the post-mortem records of lightning cases conducted at mortuary of KGH, Raigarh (CG) were considered for the research study. All cases other than lightning were excluded from the study. People of all age groups from both sexes were included in the study. The study was conducted from 1st Jan 2018 to 31st Dec 2019 (Two Years). All the data were collected and subjected to statistical analysis.

Photographs

Figure 2

Arborescent burn mark over chest

https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/typeset-prod-media-server/287d563c-b1ef-4f4e-920b-4f96f4cbbcf4image2.png
Figure 3

Singeing of scalp hair in lightning

https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/typeset-prod-media-server/287d563c-b1ef-4f4e-920b-4f96f4cbbcf4image3.png

Data Analysis

Table 1

Year wise distribution of cases

Sl. No

Year

Total No. of Autopsy cases

Total No. of Lightning cases

% of case

1

2018

551

01

0.18%

2

2019

558

05

0.90%

Total

1109

06

0.54%

Table 2 During the study period out of 1109 autopsy cases, only 06 cases were death due to lightning, i.e. 0.54% of total autopsy cases.

Table 2

Age wise distribution of cases

Sl. No

Age group (in years)

No. of victims

1

0-10

01 (M= 01)

2

11-20

01 (F= 01)

3

21-30

01 (M= 01)

4

31-40

03(M= 01, F= 02)

5

41-50

00

6

51-60

00

7

60 & Above

00

Total

06 (M= 03, F= 03)

The Table 3 shows that maximum cases were found in the age group of 31-40 years. The victims from both sexes were equally affected.

Table 3

Distribution according to place of incident

Sl. No

Place of incident

No. of victim

1

Road

02

2

Below a tree

02

3

Agricultural Field

02

Total

06

Table 4 According to the data all the cases were found in open spaces.

Table 4

Distribution according to activity of the deceased

Sl. No

Activity of the deceased

No. of Victim

1

Communication in Mobile

01

2

Shelter (beneath a tree)

02

3

Farming

02

4

Returning from market

01

Total

06

Table 5 It had been observed that maximum number of death cases occurred while working in farm land and while taken shelter under a tree or alike. Apart from that death of one victim was also reported when the victim was communicating in mobile phone and returning to home from market.

Table 5

Distribution according to season & time of incident

Sl.No

Season

No. of Victim

Time of Incident

No. of Victim

1

Nov- Feb

00

Morning (4AM-11.59 AM)

00

2

March - June

01

Afternoon (12 PM- 3.59 PM)

01

3

July- Oct

05

Evening (4PM- 7.59 PM)

05

Total

06

Night (8 PM- 3.59 AM

00

06

The Table 6 shows that maximum incidents had occurred during monsoon season (05 cases, 83.33%) and during evening hours. One case was also reported in afternoon.

Table 6

Distribution of burn injury

Sl. No

Site of Body

No. of Cases

1

Head

02

2

Face

05

3

Neck

03

4

Upper Limbs

01

5

Chest

03

6

Abdomen including pubic region

04

7

Lower limbs

02

Table 7 It had been observed that burn injuries due to lightning were found in different parts of the body of the victims. This suggests that almost all parts of body can be affected in lightning.

Table 7

Misc. Information based on autopsy findings

Arborescent Mark

Other injuries over different parts of body

SAH*

Singeing of Hair

Effect on Clothing

Present

Absent

Present

Absent

Present

Absent

Present

Absent

Present

Absent

05

01

06

00

01

05

03

03

01

05

Table 8 In most of the cases (05 out of 06 cases) typical arborescent mark of lightning was observed in the body of victims. In 50% of the cases singeing of hair was present and in most of the cases, effects of lightning on clothing was absent. In one case SAH (Sub arachnoid haemorrhage) was also found.

Discussion

In our study maximum number of victims were in the age group of 31-40 years, which matches with the study of Gunethi BK, Singh UP (2015) 20 and Manukonda Rajeev Varma etal (2018). 22 It was found in one study that the female victims were predominant over male 19 but reverse finding 21 was also recorded in another study from the same state therefore finding of equal number of male and female deceased in our study is quite possible. In our study most of the cases occurred in open field, which matches with the study of Chao TC etal (1981). 24 Since there was no structural barrier to protect the victim from the aggression of lightning at open field, therefore all death occurred in partially sheltered and open areas. Again Chao TC etal (1981) 24 had mentioned that no death due to lightning occurred in well protected places. Communicating through mobile phone is working under the principle of electro-magnetic wave therefore while a person is communicating through mobile during lightning may bring dangerous episode for himself.

Most of the cases happened during monsoon season, which matches with the study of Gunethi BK, Singh UP (2015)20 and Gadge SJ and Shrigiriwar MB (2013).19 All cases in our study occurred between 12-6 PM, which is consistent with the findings of Gadge SJ and Shrigiriwar MB (2013)19 at Yavatmal, Maharashtra, therefore it is evident that lightning deaths are more common during working hours in day time. Arborescent mark is one of the critical finding in death due to lightning, which differentiates these cases from suspicious homicidal and other cases involving foul play. In majority of the cases no any specific internal finding was observed during post mortem examination. In only one case SAH was found.

Conclusion

Lightning is a naturally occurring global phenomenon and the incidents are always accidental in nature. Cardiopulmonary arrest is most common cause of death in such cases followed by ventricular fibrillation and thermal injuries. Although lightning injuries have a unique presentation in the form of arborescent mark on the body, but it can have unusual presentation in the body ranging from very specific finding to very little or no external or internal finding. In most cases victims die immediately after lightning effect, but in some cases person survives, which needs prompt resuscitative measures. Our study involves very little number of cases, which doesn’t clearly depict the actual picture of lightning deaths. Therefore it needs more sample size with meticulous and methodical approach in lightning related deaths. We are in concurrence with respect to safety measures pointed out in the study of Manukonda Rajeev Varma etal. (2018)22 and Chao TC etal. (1981).24

Confidentiality

Non disclosure of identity of the deceased and autopsy surgeon.

Source of Funding

None.

Conflict of Interest

None.

References

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M A Uman All About Lightning19865581

2 

J P James W S Busuttil Forensic Medicine Clinical and Pathological Aspects1st First Ed2003832

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J E Oliver Encyclopedia of World Climatology1st 2005854

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M A Uman All about Lightning198610310

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P R Field W H Hand G Cappelluti Hail Threat Standardisation". European Aviation Safety Agency2010https://www.easa.europa.eu/document-library/research-reports/easarepresea20085

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Kifuka - place where lightning strikes most often2010https://www.wondermondo.com/kifuka/

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Annual Lightning Flash Rate". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration2009https://sos.noaa.gov/catalog/datasets/lightning-flash-rate/

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Contrary to the common expression, lightning can and often does strike the same place twice.https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/natural-disasters/lightning/

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S J Gadge M B Shrigiriwar Lightning: A 15 Year Study of Fatal Cases at SVNGMC YavatmalJ Forensic Med Sci Law 201322115

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B K Gunethi U P Singh Profile and Analysis of Lightning Victims Brought to MGH, Khammam; Telangana StateJ Indian Acad Forensic Med201537325862

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M B Shrigiriwar R K Gadhari V T Jadhao C V Tingne N B Kumar Study of Fatalities due to Lightning in Nagpur Region of MaharashtraJ Indian Acad Forensic Med201436325962

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© This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Article type

Original Article


Article page

86-90


Authors Details

Rajesh Ban Goswami, A. Dutta


Article History

Received : 02-09-2021

Accepted : 09-09-2021

Available online : 29-09-2021


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