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'One in a Million': Runner Killed by Lightning Near Finish Line

Organizers say storm blew in without warning
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 1, 2019 1:24 AM CDT
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This Sept. 28, 2019 photo provided by Mile 90 Photography shows runner Thomas Stanley, left, near the start of the FlatRock 50K on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019 at the Elk City State Park.   (Mile 90 Photography via AP)

(Newser) – A 33-year-old distance runner in Kansas was less than a quarter mile from the finish line in a 31-mile ultramarathon when he was killed by lightning. Carolyn Robinson, director of the FlatRock trail race, says Thomas Stanley was struck around 2:15pm Saturday after a small storm blew in "without warning," the AP reports. She says Stanley was struck "the moment the storm blew in." She says officials and other racers at the Elk City State Park attempted CPR, while crowd members drove to a nearby stretch of road to help other runners get out of the storm. The BBC reports that the National Weather Service had warned earlier in the day of strong to severe storms in that area of southeast Kansas.

"A lot of the participants who were there tending to him are having a very hard time dealing with this loss," Robinson says. "They did everything they could." Friends describe Stanley as a devoted distance runner who was just as devoted to his wife Ashley and their three children: 2-year-old Claire, 4-year-old Peter, and 6-year-old Charlotte. "Thomas' family says that the chances of being killed by a lightning strike are about one in a million, and Thomas was truly a one-in-a-million guy," race organizers said in a Facebook post. "Our deepest condolences to Thomas' family and all who knew this wonderful man." Race organizers say they added Stanley as a finisher who came in 11th out of 104 competitors in the final results because he completed the full distance despite not crossing the finish line. (A Norwegian runner was killed by lightning in July after she wasn't informed the race had been halted.)

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