March 7, 2014
Villa Gesell lightning strike death toll rises to 4
Mayor of the coastal town of Villa Gesell Jorge Rodríguez Erneta has confirmed the death of the fourth victim of yesterday’s tragic beach lighting strike. Priscila Ochoa was 16 years old and was fighting for her life at the Arturo Illia municipal hospital.
Mr. Erneta explained doctors “have made the greater efforts” to assist the adolescent but that the injuries caused by the lightening led to a multi-organ failure and Priscila’s death.
“There is a judicial a process going on; autopsies have been done to determine that a pulmonary and heart failures were the cause of death of the patients, with one of them showing a diaphragm injury,” the Villa Gessel mayor said and added that some of the 22 patients who remain hospitalized might be discharged today.
The lightning hit the Afrika beach, located in the intersection of 123 Street and the beach at around 4.30pm.
Patricia Spinelli, head of the Emergency department of the Buenos Aires province Health Ministry, confirmed the initial reports.
Emergency teams deployed
Buenos Aires province Governor Daniel Scioli arrived at the scene from the coastal city of Mar del Plata in order to supervise the rescue activities.
“It’s a tragedy,” Scioli said, before praising the “titanic” job carried out by Pablo Lucero, director of the Arturo Illia hospital.
“All emergency teams were deployed for this,” the provincial leader said. “We will put our efforts into this and then we will study in more detail the characteristics of the accident.”
‘I saw my friend’
Fatal victims are Fabián Irustia, a 17-year-old from San Luis province, Nicolás Elena, a 19-yeard-old from the Buenos Aires province district of Junín, Gabriel Rodríguez, a 20-year-old from the BA province district of Henderson, and Priscila Ochoa.
Rafael Viñuela, friend of Gabriel Rodríguez, one of the youngsters killed after being hit by the lightning, said he and his group of friends were “looking for shelter in a tent when we heard an explosion and then I saw my friend Gabriel lying” on the sand.
“I had no idea what was going on, Gabriel was lying (on the sand) and his arm was burned, I ran looking for a doctor but when they finally arrived they told us he had died instantly,” Viñuela told state-run news agency Télam.
He and his friends had come to Villa Gesell from Henderson to spend their holidays.
Osvaldo García, proprietor of the Afrika beach, said he saw “a ball of fire” before he heard “a terrible noise.”
“I saw staff from the beach stand fly three or four metres because of the impact,” García added.
According to the National Meteorological Service (SMN), the lightning occurred because of a “sudden isolated storm that was accompanied by ascending air and water currents and great electric activity.”
Villa Gesell is a laid-back coastal town located 376 kilometres south of Buenos Aires City, a popular destination among porteños and residents from other provinces, usually seen as the second-most popular beach destination after Mar del Plata.
Designed in the 1930s by merchant and nature lover Carlos Gesell, the town is smaller than Mar del Plata and is preferred by both families and the younger crowd to spend the summer holidays.
Tourists enjoy its wood-planked beach boardwalk and its seasonal rock concerts. Most services are located on Avenue 3, three blocks away from the beach. The town now has roughly 30,000 inhabitants.