22-Year-Old Student Tragically Dies After Being Struck by Lightning in Wyoming Mountains

by Emily Morgan

A 22-year-old student participating in an outdoor educator course died after he was struck by lightning in Wyoming on Tuesday evening. 

The student participated in the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) when he died on Tuesday, August 2. According to a release from the organization, he was part of an outdoor educator course near Enos Lake in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest.

According to a local news report, the student was identified as John “Jack” Murphy from Boston, Massachusetts.

After the tragedy, his family released a statement to the Jackson Hole News&Guide confirming his sudden passing.

“We are rocked by grief at having lost our dear Jack,” the sorrowful statement began. “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.”

Per reports from NOLS, following the strike, his group members performed CPR on him for more than an hour. Sadly, it was too late, and Murphy died on the scene. 

In addition, one other student was injured and airlifted to a hospital in Jackson, Wyoming, by Teton County Search and Rescue (TCSAR). The surviving student is currently in stable condition.

This is also the first lightning strike fatality in the school’s history. According to a 2019 risk management report, since 1966, 11 students and one instructor have died due to accidents during courses. 

The well-known outdoor education school facilitates courses worldwide. Every year, thousands of students join programs that take students on backpacking, climbing, mountaineering, kayaking, and leadership trips. 

Tragedy hits NOLS organization as student dies from lightning strike

“This is a very sad day for NOLS, our students and our families,” said NOLS president Terri Watson in an official 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 the school, “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.” 

On Wednesday, outlets reported that two additional group members required an air evacuation from TCSAR due to “acute emotional reaction.”

A Teton County search and rescue spokesperson said the group had been in the Wyoming wilderness for just three days. They were scheduled for a 30-day trip.

Across the country, in Washington D.C., lightning struck four individuals at Lafayette Park. The park is located across the street from the White House. 

As of Friday, the victims remain in critical condition and are currently receiving treatment for life-threatening injuries. 

The storm occurred on Thursday evening when thunderstorms were making their way across the region. The lightning storm struck in the blink of an eye. As a result, people in the area had minimal time to seek cover.