Lightning Fatality in Bryce Canyon National Park

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Date: August 19, 2011
Contact: Dan NG, 435.834.4735

Lightning Causes One Fatality in Bryce Canyon National Park

An international visitor was killed by lightning along the Rim Trail between Sunrise and Sunset Points in Bryce Canyon National Park on Thursday, August 18. The victim was identified as Volker Kunz, 51, from Hamm, Germany.

At approximately 12:20 PM, Mr. Kunz and his family were on the Rim Trail near Sunset Point when a rapidly developing thunderstorm approached the area. The family began returning to their vehicle to seek shelter from the rain. Mr. Kunz sought refuge under a large ponderosa pine. Lightning directly struck the tree Mr. Kunz was standing under and its energy was transferred to him. Family members ran to the Bryce Canyon Lodge nearby to call for help. A registered nurse and her husband, visiting from Washington State, were first on the scene and determined that Kunz had no pulse. They immediately began performing Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). Park rangers and Garfield County emergency medical technicians soon arrived and continued CPR. Attempts to revive him continued while he was transported by ambulance to Garfield Memorial Hospital in Panguitch, Utah, 25 miles away. Hospital staff took over care of the patient but attempts to revive him were unsuccessful. Mr. Kunz is survived by his wife and two sons.

This incident is a tragic reminder that summer storms in the Southwest, including at Bryce Canyon National Park, are often accompanied by potentially deadly lightning. Visitors to the park are reminded that if the sound of thunder follows a lightning flash within 30 seconds or less, they should seek shelter immediately in a building or vehicle and not under a tree or near any high point of land. The last lightning-caused fatality in the park was in 2004.

For more information on lightning safety, see the park's newspaper, the "Hoodoo", at or visit

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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