A 22-year-old NOLS student died on Tuesday, August 2, after being struck by lightning, according to a release from the organization. The student was part of an outdoor educator course taking place near Enos Lake in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest.
According to a local news report, the student was John “Jack” Murphy of Boston, Massachusetts.
Murphy’s family released a statement to the Jackson Hole News&Guide confirming the loss.
“We are rocked by grief at having lost our dear Jack. Jack loved the outdoors and found peace in the physical exertion it takes to climb to a remote place like Enos Lake, so far from the city home he grew up in. We know in his last moments he was with others who shared his passion for the wilderness and helping others. And he was doing what he loved best—being outdoors, in awe of the beauty of nature.”
Other group members performed CPR for more than an hour, but Murphy died on scene, according to NOLS. One other student was injured and airlifted to Jackson, Wyoming, by Teton County Search and Rescue (TCSAR). The surviving student is in stable condition.
This is the first lightning strike fatality in NOLS history. According to a 2019 risk management report by NOLS, a total of 11 students and one instructor have passed away as a result of accidents during courses since 1966. The renowned outdoor education school operates courses around the world, with thousands of students each year joining backpacking, climbing, mountaineering, kayaking, and leadership programs, among others.
“This is a very sad day for NOLS, our students and our families,” said NOLS president Terri Watson in a release. “We extend our deepest condolences to the family of our student who passed away on this course and are focused on supporting their family through its difficult process.”
According to a release from NOLS, “NOLS is supporting the injured student, who remains hospitalized and in stable condition. The course stayed in the mountains overnight and will return from their journey on Wednesday, August 3.” Buckrail reported on Wednesday that two additional members of the group required an air evacuation from TCSAR due to “acute emotional reaction.”
A spokesperson for Teton County search and rescue said the group had been in the wilderness for just three days of a scheduled 30-day trip.
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