Jul 15, 2012 / 9:09 pm
Hundreds of people at an Ontario food festival were crammed into a dining tent waiting out a sudden rain shower Sunday when a lightning bolt struck one of the structure's steel poles, triggering an electrical discharge that sent 17 people to hospital amid a buzz of concern.
"You see the flash and it sounded like a bomb (went off) exactly at the same time. It was so loud," said Steve Peddle, who was with his wife inside the main tent of the inaugural Whitby Ribfest when the lightning hit around 2 p.m.
"All of a sudden, like not even three seconds after that, you started hearing people screaming."
Officials said none of the 17 taken to hospital suffered life-threatening injuries, but many at the event were shaken by the incident.
"It wasn't just one person, there was a lot of people screaming. And so you knew somebody must have got hit," said Peddle, who travelled from nearby Pickering with his wife Rose.
"I looked over and where my wife had been sitting before we got our ribs... there was three people lying on the ground there."
Another festival-goer, Michael Thompson, said a huge crowd of people had flooded into the large white tent moments before the strike as rain pounded the festival grounds at Iroquois Park in Whitby, which sits some 55 kilometres east of Toronto.
"It was pretty chaotic. We didn't really know what was going on," the 45-year-old said of the immediate aftermath of the strike.
"Some first aid people were in there and they (were) pretty quick when they rushed in. They were throwing tables out of the way so they could reach the injured."
Durham police said those who were injured were quickly taken to local hospitals.
Nine people were rushed via ambulance to Lakeridge Health in Durham, some suffering from minor burns, while others were uninjured but want to be checked up on, said a spokesman with the hospital.
"Everyone who came, nobody had anything serious. Everybody has been discharged," said Aaron Lazarus.
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