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A New Tool to Study Lightning Fatality in Real-world Forensic Cases

As anyone who has spent time in Johannesburg during the South African summer will attest, there is nothing as spectacular as a Highveld thunderstorm at the end of a long, hot day. These storms are awe inspiring – but also dangerous to people, animals and the built environment. African countries, among them Zambia and Uganda, have some of the highest lightning fatality rates in the world. In South Africa, more than 250 people are killed by lightning annually. Deaths can’t always be definitely attributed to lightning because, while its marks are easy to spot on the skin or in the organs, nobody was sure how to identify its marks on skeletonised remains. New research changes this. A study, published in the journal Forensic Science International: Synergy, represents collaboration between specialists in forensic anthropology, histology, lightning physics, and micro-focus X-ray computed tomography from the universities of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, Northumbria in the UK, and the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa.SOURCE: THE CONVERSATION