Lightning Deaths: A Retrospective Review of New Mexico's Cases, 1977-2009

Jennifer L. Pincus*, Sarah L. Lathrop, Alice J. Briones, Sam W. Andrews, Michelle B. Aurelius

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


To better understand lightning deaths, a retrospective review of electronic records from New Mexico's Office of the Medical Investigator database was performed between 1977 and 2009 to update and assess current risk factors. Information on demographics, circumstances, autopsy, and death certificates were collected and analyzed. Fifty-four decedents were identified, ages 2-71 years old (mean 34 years old), 42 males and 12 females. Common racial/ethnic groups were non-Hispanic Whites and American Indians (together comprising 72% of all cases). Physical findings were often related to the heat carried by the electrical current including clothing alterations (29.6%) and burning of skin (53.7%). Most deaths occurred on weekend afternoons in summer months, associated with recreational activities or agricultural work, and rural locations (77.8%). Utilizing the demographic information, clustered events, and associated outdoor activities will assist in creating public awareness and provide a framework to support targeted warnings in an attempt to prevent future deaths.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)66-71
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Forensic pathology
  • Forensic science
  • Lightning accidental electrocution
  • Lightning attack
  • Lightning injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Genetics

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