EAST GARFIELD PARK — A 13-year-old girl is in critical condition after she was struck by lightning Wednesday afternoon while exploring the outdoor gardens at the Garfield Park Conservatory, officials said.
The freak accident happened around 1:55 p.m. just outside that conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Drive, Park District officials said. The outdoor section where the teen was hurt includes a terrace, an organic vegetable garden, a nature play space and a pond covered in lily pads.
The thunderstorm began suddenly in the early afternoon Wednesday, and the teen was “either struck by lightning or lightning hit the ground near where she was standing,” fire department spokesman Larry Merritt said. No other injuries were reported, Merritt said.
When employees heard the commotion and realized somebody had been hit by lightning, they called an ambulance, park district officials said. Employees also used an automated external defibrillator to monitor the girl’s heart. The defibrillator detected a regular heart rhythm, so it was not necessary to deliver an electrical shock onsite, a park district spokesperson said.
The girl was taken to Stroger Hospital in critical condition, Merritt said.
The weather Wednesday afternoon was highly unpredictable, “like popcorn storms, really scattered,” National Weather Service Meteorologist Brett Borchardt said.
At least 5,000 lightning strikes were recorded from Will County to Lake County between 1-2 p.m., he said.
The scattered thunderstorms formed rapidly in different places in the Chicago area, making it difficult for people to tell when danger might be approaching, he said.
“It might not have readily apparent that a storm was approaching. The storms were developing overhead. It wasn’t like you could look to the west and see a big dark cloud approach,” Borchardt said.
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