ESMAIL email@example.com_county.toronto.toronto_star 2005-08-11 published
Lightning strike kills professor
Friend made frantic 10K run for help
Tragedy on Killarney wilderness trip
By Roberta AVERY, Special To The Star
Killlarney, Ontario -- A Concordia University professor was killed Tuesday evening when lightning struck the ground near his tent during a hiking trip to a remote lake in Killarney wilderness park with his son and a friend visiting from Russia.
After the lightning strike, the Russian, 19-year-old Anton SORTUNATOR, made a frantic 10-kilometre trek over rough terrain in a vain attempt to get help for Victor ROSSOKHATY, 48, of Montreal. The hike along La Cloche Silhouette Trail from Lake Topaz normally takes at least five hours to complete but SORTUNATOR made it to the park gate in just 90 minutes.
"It's very rough terrain, it's considered an advanced trail," said Cam HOEPP, assistant park warden at Killarney Provincial Park, which lies about 100 kilometres southwest of Sudbury.
Paramedics, who arrived by air ambulance a short time after SORTUNATOR raised the alarm, still had to hike about 600 metres into the bush up some craggy slopes to reach the remote campsite.
Since ROSSOKHATY had no vital signs, the paramedics, deciding it was too dangerous to try to carry his body out in the dark, stayed at the campsite overnight, said Const. Michelle COULOMBE of the Sudbury detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police.
Members of the Ontario Provincial Police's Emergency Response Team arrived in the early hours of the morning by boat, travelling down Baie Fine inlet and then hiking into the site.
ROSSOKHATY's body was carried out by emergency workers yesterday afternoon. That was about 21 hours after ROSSOKHATY, his son Alex, 19, and SORTUNATOR took shelter in the tent around 5 p.m. Tuesday during a violent thunderstorm.
SORTUNATOR and Alex ROSSOKHATY scrambled out of the tent after seeing lightning hit the ground nearby.
SORTUNATOR, apparently struck, felt a numbness travel down his limbs, said Const. COULOMBE.
"Then Alex realized that his father wasn't with them and when they went back into the tent to look for him, he was lying on the floor of the tent and wasn't moving," said COULOMBE.
"It appears that the lightning had travelled through the ground."
Alex immediately began cardiopulmonary resuscitation on his father, while SORTUNATOR, who is here on vacation, made the journey to get help.
ROSSOKHATY's wife is on vacation in the family's homeland of Ukraine, where ROSSOKHATY, an assistant and associate professor at Kyiv National University from 1990 until 2002, was recognized by Ukraine's National Academy of Science in 1990 for his research in graded semiconductors.
Nabil ESMAIL, Dean of Concordia's department of electrical and computer engineering, said ROSSOKHATY was "extremely excited" about joining the faculty in 2002 and learning about the culture of Canada.
"Getting a position with Concordia was like winning the jackpot for him," said ESMAIL, who described ROSSOKHATY as a "big strong man" who loved his new life in Canada.
Colleagues were devastated by news of his death.
"He was very well liked, people here are crying and are having a very difficult time taking it all in," said the university's Sebastian VOYER.
COULOMBE said police believe that ROSSOKHATY died from the lightning strike, but are waiting for an autopsy scheduled for today before making that the official cause of death.
According to the Ontario Weather Page, a website run by Fergus, Ontario, "storm chaser" Dave PATRICK, lightning kills about 16 people a year in Canada.
Tuesday's tragedy bore an eerie similarity to the August, 2003, death of Lee USHER, 41, of Toronto.
He was killed when lightning struck near a tent he was sharing with his two sons near Parry Sound.
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