Official Track Statement: Lightning Strike Tragedy

Brandon Igdalsky, President & CEO of Pocono Raceway, Addresses Lighting Strike Tragedy


LONG POND, PA (August 6, 2012) – As reported yesterday, a long time member of our Pocono Raceway family, a spectator has passed away following a lightning strike. According to Monroe County Coroner Robert Allen the name of the deceased is 41 year old Moosic, Pennsylvania resident Brian Zimmerman Additionally; nine other individuals were transferred to local hospitals as a result of two separate lightning strikes.

On behalf of the entire staff here at Pocono Raceway, we are deeply saddened by yesterday’s tragic events. As mentioned, our fans are like family to us and we express our deepest condolences to the individuals and families involved, especially Mr. Zimmerman’s.

We work in conjunction with NASCAR regarding safety of fans, teams and other attendees throughout the course of our race weekends. Additionally, we are in constant communication with local and national agencies regarding weather conditions and emergency services.

At approximately 5:01 p.m. Eastern Time, the first lightning strike occurred on property inside our Grandstand Parking area, located near Gate 5A. A Pocono Raceway Grandstand Fire unit was stationed in the vicinity and witnessed the actual strike. The response was immediate as the unit reported the incident to our control tower and advised spectators were injured. CPR was started immediately to Mr. Zimmerman by a friend on the scene.

Within a matter of 3 minutes, medical personnel and additional emergency services reported on the scene and took control of treatment to individuals.  EMT responders were approached by additional individuals who reported symptoms related to the lightning strike. Those affected were taken to the Raceway Medical Centers, where they were examined and transported to local area hospitals for treatment and further evaluation. A total of nine individuals were treated as a result of the initial lightning strike.

At approximately 6:35 p.m. Eastern Time, the control tower was notified of a second possible lightning strike in the vicinity near Gate 3. The individual was immediately transported to Pocono Raceway’s Infield Medical Center where they were initially treated for minor injuries before being transported to Pocono Medical Center in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania for further evaluation.

As stated last night at 7:40 p.m. Eastern Time, Mr. Zimmerman was confirmed as deceased. Additional information regarding the other nine individuals involved was not yet available.

At this point in time, the one individual that was in critical condition has now been upgraded to stable. Some have been treated and released. Others involved are pending release as early as today and all are in good spirits. The safety of all guests to Pocono Raceway is of the utmost importance to our entire staff. This tragic event is at the forefront of all of our thoughts and prayers. We will learn from the incident and continue to implement strategies to help ensure the safety of fans and all attendees at future events at Pocono Raceway.

We are in the process up establishing a Memorial Fund is for victims of this incident. More information will be released a soon as possible.


  1. Krista King |

    It’s great to see once again Pocono Raceway is right there to help in a time of need. My prayers are with the families and hope for a quick recovery for the others. I think a fund is a great idea.
    Krista King

  2. Bobbi-Leigh Eldred |

    A couple people have said this on various other sites but I agree – if the president of Pocono was willing to give someone $100,000 if Jr won, why not give at least half of that to the victims family and the others who were injured. While it is nature and Pocono cannot control the weather, it would be a great gesture from the track. Also, as someone who was there……due to the high usage of cell phones, it’s near impossible to get them to work (mine wouldn’t all day)so Facebook “warnings” didn’t go to everyone and the PA system is so muffled, I couldn’t make sense out of what was being said all day let alone when warnings went out. Maybe someone can come up with a better Emergency Procedure…..

  3. Michelle |

    Such sad news on the ending of great news for Jeff Gordon for his first victory on his birthday weekend this year. My prayers and thoughts go out to the Zimmerman family and all those injured during this unfortunate Act of God.

  4. |

    pocono raceway you are doing a great job keep up the are showing everbody we are family to you good people thanks from a fan

  5. Carol M. Kosisky |

    I would like to say my heart goes out to the families of this incident and also my best reguards goes to Pocono Raceway for their immediant action for these people. I turely believe that owners of Pocono are sincere because that is the kind of people they are , they learned from the best …DOC…. I would like to donate to the fund to help these people esp. the person who passed. My heart aches for this incident that has happened. May God Bless .


    My deepest sympathy goes out to the family of Mr. Zimmerman and all those injured may god be with each and everyone of them in their time of need,,,and as for the unhappy fan whom disapproved of Jeff Gordons celebration if he had known of the lose of a life he would have condoned the loss and skipped the celebrating ,,,,so u can’t blame him for the unknown and as seen once he found out all his sympathy and concerns turned away from his victory and to the loss of Mr Zimmerman and all others injured,,,Jeff Gordon is a man with a heart of gold for all human beings a man that gives of himself and not all about himself.I’m sorry this was needed to be said,,,,,DEEPEST SYMPATHY to the Zimmerman family and all the other injured and to gordon on an amazing run

  7. mary harr |

    sorry to hear about this . and prayers and thoughts go out to the families. and to all staff at the race track . GOD BLESS AND KEEP U ALL.

  8. Terry and Heidi Gross |

    Sending our condolences to the Zimmerman family for there loss of a loved one it affected us we were just yards away tryed to help ambulance get out as soon as possible for much needed to your family once again sorry for your loss.

    sign Terry and Heidi Gross

  9. |

    I was in attendance at the race Sunday. The track staff did a very good job of ensuring fan safety before and during the storm. They made numerous announcements to fans via the track’s PA system about the storm coming; in fact, an hour before the lightning was expected to hit with the first storm, all fans were ordered out of the grandstands and into their cars.

    After the 51 car’s crash, most of the fans started to leave since the second storm was getting close to the track. Track staff made an announcement asking fans to seek shelter due to the proximity of the storm.

    This was a very unfortunate incident and my thoughts are with the families of those affected. Through all this, it is important to note that Pocono Raceway did everything within their power to protect the fans at the track by making announcements about the impending storms. Unfortunately, Mother Nature is often unpredictable and things like this will happen — it’s especially tragic that we lost a loyal race fan, and I’m wishing the best to everyone else affected.

  10. katherine banks |

    Prayers for all the ones involved in this accident. And for the Zimmerman family GOD BE WITH ALL OF YOU .

  11. Patricia Dee Picone |

    Thank you for the update. We all need to pull together as the NASCAR and offer support and prayers for all of the people injured and their families. It was extremely tragic, but was an act of God and we need to learn from this! We can not ignore these signs and maybe next year when severe weather is CLOSE the race may have to go on delay, to get everyone to safety. It is hard to get that many people to their cars in just a few minutes. Especially when you have people with diabilities there. Maybe a golf cart should have been provided to assist the people who couldn’t walk good; I was one of them….I use a cane. The weather made it worse for me and the first storm I just stayed under the grandstand, but the second storm I went to the car. I know I was holding up some people at times because they wanted to run and couldn’t get around me. It may help alleviate some congestion during storms, when trying to get people to their cars. This was just a very tragic ending to a great race weekend!
    My sincere sympathy to Mr. Zimmermam’s family.

  12. |

    Thoughts and prayers being sent to the victims of this tragic event. My husband and I were unfortunate to witness the lightning strike in the grandstand parking area. It was a very scary situation. It is unfortunate for all that was involved, but as this article states will be a learning experience to further the safety of the Pocono family in the future. Pocono had no control over what happened on Sunday, but I am glad to know that they are taking the initiative to learn from this sad event!

  13. harvey kilner |

    I was at this race and a great day turned bad.I am sorry for the loss and my deapest symphony to the family.and I hope the other people injured are ok.and to pocono raceway we are family and thank u for all that u did.

  14. Michael Constantine |

    They were parked less then 30 yards in front of us. Seeing the mangled canopies and the vacant vehicles was too much too comprehend! My thoughts are with their friends and family. I didn’t put my canopy up and that may have saved our lives!

  15. Chris |

    its very sad….one min your having fun & enjoying yourself at the races next min something terrible happens.

  16. Diana in Library HR field |

    This is such a sad and alarming story; what a tragic accident..Most fans are at the mercy of the outdoor venues’ management and we all know weather is sometimes unpredictable as far as severity and traveling speed, but if current NOAA warnings/information had been posted as a “ticker” on the bottom of track (TV) screens along with the track’s precautionary recommendations, some fans may have made different decisions regarding their own safety.

  17. john |

    my heart goes out to all involved in the unfortunate incodent at the track yesterday. my God watch over the Zimmerman family and be with them in their time of need. as far as the Jeff Gordon thing, his win and celebration should in no way be associated with this unfortunate tragedy. he is a person and I am sure had he known this had happened, his celebration would have been very subdued. again, my heart goes out to all involved and may God be with you.

  18. david reel |

    Our hearts go out to te Zimmerman family and all the others affected by the storm. We use to come to the track every year for the races and have been in storms at the track to. I just pray nobody trys to come back on the raceway for a act of nature.

  19. Jessica |

    🙁 My heart goes out to the families. That was one heck of a storm, it was scary to even ride it out under the grandstands! 🙁 I know you all did everything in your power to let us know what was going on and what to do.


    I also send my condolences to the Zimmerman family. It is such sad loss for all of us fans and Pocono Raceway. I also pray that the others that were injured recover.
    The other thing i wanted to state was that me myself being a fan of Pocono Raceway since 2001 and attended every race there since then that the track owners have always done a great job as far as safety goes and fire and emt crews are always there and visible. We must thank them as well so the people that say that the races are so loud that they didnt hear any announcements they are lying. Brian, id be more than happy to make a statement for you if you need one if it comes down to it. You and your family have made this a wonderful place for us die hard Nascar fans to come to your track. I just wanted to tell you that. It is unfortunate that you just lost DOC and now this has to happen. Either way, im sure things will work out and you will see us for both races in 2013. Take care.

  21. April Smith |

    First and foremost I would like to send my heart felt condolences to the Zimmerman family. My prayers, thoughts and heart are with you. I could not even start to fathom what you are going through. My husband and I were there with our two children and my brother. I couldn’t imagine having to go and pack up everything and then drive the 4-5 hours drive it takes to get home as we are from Jefferson Hills Pa. NASCAR DID warn everyone of the storm and told everyone to take cover. However, even of they did not, you could clearly see the storm was coming and you shouldn’t have had to wait or NASCAR to tell you to leave. Once it started raining heavily and thunder and lighting came, you knew they were calling the race. With that being said, in all honesty, the people I seen leaving 10minutes before we did, STILL got stuck walking or running into the bathrooms for cover. So depending on where you were, it didn’t make a difference when u left the grandstands. My husband and I have been attending the August Poconos race for over 10yrs and EVERY YEAR it rains!!!! If your an avid fan and go evey year, YOU KNOW THAT!! We have a saying, ” it’s not Poconos without the rain”. This was the worst storm I have ever seen there. The storm cane in fast and ot came in hard. The Pocono staff, facility and owners always have their fans safety as a top priority. As we were running for cover, I seen Pocono staff driving around making sure people were getting to safety and helping if need be. Nascar and the drivers also care deeply about the safety of their fans. It’s true, we all are like a HUGE family, it’s like the worlds largest family re-union! You see the same people year after year, I know my family has made so really dear friends ad we have Poconos to thank for that. If it wasn’t for the races there, we may never had met them and would have never had the joy of their friendship in our lives. No one should put blame on Poconos or NASCAR for the tragedy that occurred. Blame mother nature because thats what happened plain and simple, MOTHER NATURE happened! It was an accident that unfortunately no one had control over. As for Gordon celebrating, I am not a Gordon fan but I must say, he did NOT KNOW at that time what had happened and I was following on twitter. It’s true, as soon as he learned what had happened, he completely turne away from his winning and focused on the victims of the tragedy. Mark Martin tweeted as soon as he heard, Brad Kaslowski did also. In fact he said he thought he was going to be sick after he heard what had happened. There have been nothing but condolences and prayers from the drivers and announcers that I follow in twitter for the families. My family and I will definitely be going back to Poconos, we love it there. We always have such a good, fun, relaxing time(for the most part,sort of hard with a 5&2yr old to relax anywhere). We always talk to the parking staff as they are directing cars in and out of the parking area. We feed them, give them a drink if need be. May not seem like it, but they really do put up with a lot!!! When the rain slowed, they were right back out there IN THE RAIN directing traffic so people could get out safely. Can not wait to go back to Poconos to see my “family”!!

  22. |

    A loss of life is always tragic, but there are lessons to be learned from this incident as well as a person and event that must not be forgotten. I would like to see a memorial monument established for Mr. Zimmerman. I was in the infield at the time and saw the lightning coming down as my family and friends were packing up out stuff. The next time I setup my tent and walk the infield, I would like to see something like the stones at the pit/paddock gate. I think that a granite stone with a carving of our fallen fan in it would be a wonderful way to remember him. We all want to remember the good times, but we cannot forget the bad times. A nice flowerbed or maybe a single tree planted near this memorial would set it off from the rest of the features in the infield. Most tracks name a grandstand after a person, but it would be nice to see Pocono Raceway take a step out in front of the rest of the tracks and set a new standard for tragic events such as these. I look forward to seeing and working at many more races to come, and await the positive changes to come.
    Frank Bailey

  23. Lori Daylida |

    My sincere condolences to Brian Zimmerman, his family, and the other 9 victims & their families. God bless you.
    I’ve read quite a number of comments made about what happened this past Sunday & I would like to share 2 (comments) in case you haven’t seen them. One is that Pocono has set up a fund for the victims & their families through Fidelity Bank. Since Mr. Brandon Igdalsky, President & CEO of Pocono Raceway, was willing to award $100,000.00 to a fan if Dale Jr. won, since Dale Jr. didn’t win, I hope he is willing to give that $100,000 to the fund that has been established in honor of the lightning victims & their families. Secondly, someone suggested Pocono use the jumbo screens to announce the weather warnings as many people could not hear them. I think that’s an excellent idea & I hope Pocono & all the other tracks implement something like that.
    I would like to thank Dr. Arnold & his staff in the First Aid tent, as well as Rebecca (Becky), Frank, Gene and the security staff. I re-injured my (post-surgery) right knee while walking & shopping in the fan trailer area. These representatives of Pocono Raceway treated me with respect & compassion, trying to get me the help I needed to deal with my injury, get to my seat, then to my car after the race was ended early due to the horrific storm. Becky was particularly friendly & compassionate and I appreciated everything she did & tried to do to accommodate my needs; you are a great asset to the security team & to Pocono Raceway.
    Finally, SHAME ON NASCAR for making the race team crews go out onto the track in several inches of water during the torrential rain, thunder, and deadly lightning, to remove the cars from pit road. How dare you put those crew members’ lives in danger to remove those pieces of metal & rubber from the track! If you had just waited about 25 minutes longer, they could have done so safely & efficiently. SHAME, SHAME, SHAME!
    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts.

  24. Bill Smith |

    I just want to start out by saying that my heart goes out to the Zimmerman family on their devastating loss. It is and was such a tragic event that happened on Sunday. Words cannot express the extreme sadness i feel for Mr. Zimmerman”s wife and three children as well as the rest of his family and friends. I was thirty feet away from him when the lightning struck and me and three of my friends were also struck and had to go to various hospitals. What happened was a tragedy for everyone involved, it happened so fast and quick that nobody was prepared for it. Yes i could have changed the outcome of this event, i saw the storm rolling in. But by the time the race ended and we got back to the parking lot and the lightning struck was a matter of seven minutes. I believe that i am old enough to make decisions and fully accountable for my actions without Nascar or the track to tell me differently. i learned a very valuble lesson and i would like to thank the EMT’s, the infield care center, the ambulance driver and everyone at Lehigh Valley Hospital for everything they did. I’d also like to thank the Mattioli family and Brandon. I’m sorry this happened but it won’t stop me from comming back…W.S.

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