Villa Gesell reeling after lightning kills four
16-year-old Priscila Ochoa becomes fourth fatality as Scioli vows to study beach safety
Villa Gesell was reeling after a lightning strike turned a beach into the scene of a tragedy.
With the death of 16-year-old Priscila Ochoa on Friday the number of fatalities from the lightining strike in the coastal town’s “Afrika” beach increased to four — all of them young.
Despite the presence of some tourists, the beach was relatively empty compared with the usual bustling scene that is common for January. Talk of the tragedy dominated all talk.
As of press time, four people remained hospitalized.
Carlos Churrupi, the security chief at Afrika beach, highlighted the important role played by the lifeguards in preventing the number of fatalities from being even larger.
The first to arrive at the scene were Mariano Pinazo, Federico Campi, Agustín Rosberg, Karina Naja and Juan Fernández.
“The injured victims were assisted by five lifeguards who accomplished an almost impossible task,” Churrupi said. “In the middle of the chaos, they managed to save the life of the victims, with resuscitation techniques, before the paramedics arrived.”
Churrupi went on to describe the lightning strike as “something that had never been seen.”
The last fatal victim was 16-year-old Priscila Ochoa, from San Luis province, who had been in intensive care since the lightning strike and died on Friday morning. On Thursday night, doctors were already warning that one of the injured was in a very delicate condition.
Out of the other 21 people hospitalized, 17 were discharged by the end of the week.
The three remaining inpatients at Illia hospital were 44-year-old Laura Blanco, 41-year-old Hernán Vila, and 53-year-old Carlos Prestera. Meanwhile, Priscila Ochoa’s sister, 11-year-old Salma, remains hospitalized in Mar del Plata pediatric’s ward, but she si reportedly evolving favourably.
Priscila, the other fatalities are 20-year-old Gabriel Rodríguez, from the centre-west Buenos Aires municipality of Henderson, 17-year-old Augustín Irustia, Priscila’s cousin, also from San Luis and 19-year-old Nicolás Ellena, from another Buenos Aires municipallity, Junín.
Because of the tragedy, Mayor Jorge Rodríguez Erneta, decreed three days of mourning.
INVESTIGATION IS ONGOING
Buenos Aires province Governor Daniel Scioli was in Mar del Plata on holidays the day of the the tragedy, and went immediately to the scene of the tragedy to express his support. He also said that officials will analyze whether new safety measures need to be implemented to prevent this type of tragedy from occurring again.
For now, prosecutor Verónica Zamboni, from Villa Gesell, is looking into the causes of the tragedy.
Between the elements found at the beach, there is a metallic box that was inside a tent, and is used by tourists to keep their valuables. The box was perforated by the lightning’s discharge.
“There is a witness who says that the lightning bolt struck precisely there,” explained Zamboni. The prosecutor ordered an autopsy of the three people who died Thursday, two of whom died at the scene and the third on the way to the hospital.
“The autopsy was carried out in the Pinamar judicial morgue. It began at 11pm and at 3.30am they phoned to inform me of the first results,” Zamboni said. “The death was caused by a lightiningbolt. The bodies were already delivered to its relatives, but they cannot be cremated.”
Herald with DyN, Télam
‘I don’t have a life any more’
Agustín Irustia’s father, one of the fatal victims of Villa Gesell tragedy, said that he did “everything possible” to revive his son.
“I would give my life for my son,” he said amid tears in a heartwrenching testimony.
“I don’t have life any more; he died in my arms and we couldn’t save him. What’s next? After this there is nothing left,” Fabio Irustia said.
In a joint press statement, the man said that the day of the tragedy “was a beach day, we were doing really well, enjoying ourselves. We were with the whole family. There was no thunder, no lightning, nothing. It was raining and nothing else.”
Because of this, he said that “we went to the tents and five minutes later we felt an explosion. The body of my son ended up lying there. The same happened to his youger brother and my niece, who died at just 16.”
What to do in a thunderstorm
The IRAM institute developed a safety guide on how to proceed during an electrical storm, saying that shelter must be sought in:
- Houses or buildings protected against bolts, far from open doors and windows
- Underearth refuges, such as subways, tunnels, or caverns.
- Big buildings with metallic structures.
- Closed cars, or other types of vehicles with a roof and metal bodywork.
- Closed trains.
- Streets shielded by surrounding buildings, preferabily next to a wall of a tall building.