Wind blew a large portion of a tree onto five Ranger School students who were spreading out to take shelter amid a storm warning, killing two and injuring three others on Aug. 9 at Fort Benning, Georgia, according to a preliminary loss report from the Army Combat Readiness Center.
Staff Sgt. George Taber and 2nd Lt. Evan Fitzgibbon were the two students killed, Army officials announced previously. Both soldiers were in student-status and conducting mountaineering training at Fort Benning when the incident occurred at 3:15 p.m. on Aug. 9.
After lightning strikes were recorded within 10 miles of Yonah Mountain, instructors sent the students into lightning-lockdown procedures. As the soldiers spread out, the wind knocked over a large portion of a tree onto five of them, the loss report revealed.
“Unit medics transported the two fatally injured soldiers off the mountainside and transferred the soldiers onto local ambulances with the unit physician’s assistant assisting along the way,” the report stated.
The report does not reveal whether the soldiers succumbed to their injuries on the way to the medical center or after arriving there.
The three injured solders all suffered “non-fatal injuries” and were transported to Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville, the report noted. Two were discharged that day while one was hospitalized for two days and has since been discharged for outpatient care, the report added.
Taber was serving as a medical sergeant at 7th Special Forces Group on Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. He enlisted in the Army in 2017.
Fitzgibbon was still in the early days of his military career, having only been commissioned from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 2021.
A more thorough safety investigation into the incident is still underway.
This is the second deadly incident involving soldiers in Georgia and lightning in the past month.
On July 20, Sgt. 1st Class Michael D. Clark was killed at Fort Gordon when he and nine other soldiers were struck by lightning. The other soldiers injured in the strike have since received medical treatment and been released, the Army said.
Rachel is a Marine Corps veteran and a master's candidate at New York University's Business & Economic Reporting program.