Harnessing Thor’s Hammer: Experimentally induced lightning trauma to human bone by high impulse current

Nicholas Bacci, Tanya N. Augustine*, Hugh Hunt, Ken Nixon, Jakobus Hoffman, South African Nuclear Corporation, Frikkie de Beer, Patrick Randolph-Quinney*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Lightning fatality identification relies primarily on soft tissue traumatic pattern recognition, prohibiting cause of death identification in cases of full skeletonisation. This study explores the effects of high impulse currents on human bone, simulating lightning-level intensities and characterising electrically induced micro-trauma through conventional thin-section histology and micro-focus X-ray computed tomography (μXCT). An experimental system for high impulse current application was applied to bone extracted from donated cadaveric lower limbs (n = 22). μXCT was undertaken prior to and after current application. Histological sections were subsequently undertaken. μXCT poorly resolved micro-trauma compared to conventional histology which allowed for identification and classification of lightning-specific patterns of micro-trauma. Statistical analyses demonstrated correlation between current intensity, extent and damage typology suggesting a multifaceted mechanism of trauma propagation - a combination of electrically, thermally and pressure induced alterations. This study gives an overview of high impulse current trauma to human bone, providing expanded definitions of associated micro-trauma.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100206
Number of pages10
JournalForensic Science International: Synergy
Early online date3 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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