Eight children and three adults were struck by lightning Saturday in a Paris park after a sudden spring storm sent a bolt crashing down upon a children's birthday party, a spokesman for Paris' fire service said. He credited an off-duty firefighter with playing a critical role in getting immediate medical help to the victims, but one child remains in critical condition.
Another group of people at a children's soccer match in western Germany were also hit by lightning Saturday afternoon, leaving three adults seriously injured.
The birthday group had sought shelter under a tree at Park Monceau, a northwest Paris park popular with well-to-do families, when a lightning bolt touched down, according to Paris fire service spokesman Eric Moulin. He put the children's ages at around 9.
Moulin said Cmdr. Pascal Gremillet, an off-duty firefighter, was visiting a museum nearby when he noticed the commotion and discovered nine of the 11 victims lying unconscious. He immediately went to work.
"He saw who was the most seriously injured. He did a quick triage of the victims. He did first aid. He alerted the rescue services," Moulin told The Associated Press. "Without his actions, it would have been much worse."
Gremillet told journalists that one child's heart had stopped beating when he arrived.
"I did first aid (and) a heart massage," he said. The other children "were in shock."
Dr. Pierre Carli, an emergency medical services official, later told journalists that for one of the children, "the prognosis is probably more serious and he is now hospitalized on life support."
For the seven other children, the news was "rather good," Carli said. Their injuries were not considered life threatening.
He said that the condition of three of the more seriously injured children was improving, All seven of the children were placed under observation, Carli said. He identified the injured adults as two men and a woman who is the mother of some of the children.
Footage shot by the fire service showed a dramatic scene at a nearby bank that was commandeered as a makeshift treatment center, with children wrapped in gold thermal blankets sitting and lying on the building's tiled floor as firefighters administered first aid before evacuating the victims to area hospitals. Two small feet, smudged with what looked like soot, stuck out from underneath one of the blankets.
An Associated Press reporter at the scene saw an abandoned pair of children's glasses and jacket near the tree. White-and-red tape was strung around the area and whistle-blowing wardens ushered weekend joggers out of the park, which was swiftly closed.
One Paris resident who lives near the park and saw the lightning crash down said it was rare to see such a wild storm hitting the French capital.
"It was dramatic," said Jean-Louis Laurens.
Storm warnings were in effect across parts of France on Saturday, and the weather had violent consequences elsewhere in Europe.
More than 30 people were taken to the hospital after lighting struck Saturday at the end of a children's soccer match in western Germany, police said.
Three adults were seriously injured in the incident in the town of Hoppstaedten, police said — including the 45-year-old referee, who suffered a cardiac arrest after being hit directly by lightning and had to be revived by onlookers and a doctor.
All 29 of the children, ages 9 to 11, who had taken part in the match between local teams SG Perlbachtal and SG Meisenheim also were taken to nearby hospitals, police said in a statement. However, it stressed that it was "a purely precautionary measure" in their case. A spectator also was taken to the hospital as a precaution.
The game had just finished when lightning struck suddenly about 2 p.m., police spokesman Dominik Lentz told n-tv television.
He said "according to what everyone present says, there were no clouds in the sky ... so that this incident couldn't have been expected."