Dawn Golon, a NASCAR fan from New Jersey, saw bad weather coming toward the end of Sunday's Pocono race and left the grandstands while the cars were still on the track. She arrived at her car just as the skies opened up and got safely inside the vehicle before the worst of the storm.
A few minutes later, fans standing approximately 50 feet away from Golon's car were not so lucky. At the height of the raging storm, lightning suddenly struck the area near her vehicle. Lightning strikes killed one person and injured nine others in the aftermath of the race.
"This lightning bolt came down, and it shook the whole car," she said. "The whole area lit up. I looked to my right where it came from, but the storm was still at its peak at that point. I couldn't see anything."
When the storm passed, Golon again looked toward the spot where she thought the lightning struck. This time, she could see the flashing red lights of emergency services vehicles and people gathered around.
She got out of her car and ran over to see if she could help, but encountered a scene that was "just chaos." There were people injured on the ground, and she saw emergency personnel performing CPR on one victim.
"It was awful," Golon said Monday morning via phone. "I'm going to start crying again talking about it. It was just horrible. I just can't get it out of my head.
"The victim's wife, or whoever he was with, she was just in shock. She kept saying, 'This can't be, this can't happen.' I was a wreck just seeing that. I've never seen something like that right there in front of us."
Golon spoke to one fan – a man named Tommy (she didn't get his last name) – who swore the lightning struck his vehicle first. Tommy was inside his truck with "four or five children," Golon said, when the lightning hit. No one in the truck was injured, but it shredded the antenna in a way that looked like someone peeled it.
Tommy told Golon the lightning hit his vehicle and then deflected backward toward people standing behind him.
"He said he looked in rear-view mirror and everyone was on the ground," Golon said. "He ran out and was the first one who started CPR. He said he didn't know what he was doing, but he felt he just had to do something. I wish we had gotten his last name, because he really jumped in and helped."
Tommy's truck – and several other vehicles around him – appeared to be incapacitated by the lightning strike. None of them would start afterward, Golon said.
Golon said she wasn't warned by the track to leave, but said everyone around her knew the storm was coming. They did not know the severity, she said, but she called it a "freak accident." She also praised the EMS personnel for arriving on the scene so quickly.
But she was shaken by the whole incident and said the incident was going to stick with her for a long time.
"He was just one of the NASCAR fans, just like us," she said. "It could have been anybody. For it to be that close, I definitely have a newfound respect for lightning. I think you just think you're never going to get hit. It's never going to happen. It's very hard to comprehend."