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Off-duty firefighter hospitalized after lightning strike; Columbus MLS game postponed

COLUMBUS, Ohio - An off-duty firefighter went into cardiac arrest after a lightning strike in the Columbus Crew's stadium parking lot Saturday night, sending him to the hospital in critical condition and leading the Major League Soccer team to postpone its game against FC Dallas.

Firefighters said there was a lightning strike outside of the stadium, but it's not known if the off-duty lieutenant was struck directly, Columbus Fire Department Battalion Chief Tracy Smith said.

She said he was in critical condition in the intensive care unit at the Ohio State Medical Center and that it takes between two and three days to determine the total effects of a possible lightning strike.

Callers reported the lightning strike to emergency officials around 8 p.m., just before the Crew's scheduled start against Dallas.

"To all — we are sincerely sorry about tonight's postponement, but your safety is of the utmost importance," Crew owner Anthony Precourt said on Twitter. "We'll share more info as we can, but a member of our community was severely injured by the weather. Praying for him."

The Crew later said the match was postponed due to the "extenuating circumstances." The team didn't announce a makeup date Saturday night, saying only that rescheduling information will be available "in the near future" and that tickets from Saturday will be honoured.

The game was scheduled to start at 8 p.m. The storm with heavy rain and lightning bursts rolled through about 15 minutes before kickoff. Fans were told to evacuate the stands and head toward the concourses of the double-decked stadium. The game was called at 9:12 p.m.

Crew fan Don Lewis told The Columbus Dispatch that he was taking cover during heavy rain in a portable toilet when he said he felt electricity run through the air and then heard someone in the toilet next to him call 911 to report that someone had been hit by lightning.

"All of a sudden it was just a bomb that went off," Lewis told the newspaper. "I knew it was close. The electricity ran through me."

He said he saw a man lying on the ground when he got out of the toilet.

"He was purple and had his shirt ripped off," Lewis said.

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