Illinois woman in critical condition after being struck by lightning at Country Thunder

An Illinois woman is in critical condition after being struck by lightning at the Country Thunder music festival early Friday morning, authorities said.

Kenosha County sheriff’s officials said Brittney Prehn, 22, was unconscious when they arrived at the fairgrounds at 12:36 a.m. after she was struck by lightning. Officials said they do not know where Prehn lives.

Prehn was taken to the Northern Illinois Medical Center in McHenry with serious injuries, authorities said. TMJ4 in Milwaukee reported she was moved to Loyola University Medical Center.

Police had a hard time identifying her because she did not have identification at the time she was taken to the hospital, authorities said.

Sgt. Mark Malecki said Prehn’s parents contacted them and were able to positively identify her.

Malecki added Prehn was in critical condition Friday morning.

“She is still not talking,” he said.

Malecki said Prehn was on her cellphone when she was struck by lightning. He said there is nothing to indicate she was doing anything wrong or unsafe.

“I don’t know how this could have been avoided,” he said.

TMJ4 reported that campers near where the lightning strike occurred were trying to piece together what happened overnight.

“I just heard a huge lightning bolt,” said Robert Kruse of Illinois. “Me and a friend walked out and every cop rushed over there. Her shoe exploded off; her other shoe was all black and burnt.”

Those around where Prehn was found are feeling lucky it wasn’t them. The powerful storms came through as they scrambled to find shelter in tents.

“I feel lucky,” said Thomas Wiskarchen of Elgin. “I’m really close to where this happened. It could have happened anywhere. We heard a lightning strike and it sounded close like a mortar went off underneath our tent.”

“It was pretty scary, honestly,” said Nick Bauer of Elmhurst. “It happened a few times. A lot of thunder and right by us, huge cracks.”

Ben Miller, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Milwaukee office, said thunderstorms were in the area from 10:30 to 11:15 p.m. and again from 12:15 to just after 1 a.m. He said the storms dumped around an inch and a quarter of water in the area and characterized them as being typical thunderstorms.

• Daily Herald staff reporter Doug T. Graham contributed to this report.