First fatal lightning strike of 2024 kills Colorado rancher, dozens of cattle

Multiple Lightning under a super-cell thunderstorm hit a ranch farm in Nebraska, USA. (Photo credit: John Finney Photography/Getty Images

A Colorado man was killed by a lightning strike on his ranch Saturday, marking the first lightning-caused death in 2024. The ranch is located near Rand, about 120 miles northwest of Denver.

According to Action News 5, 51-year-old Mike Morgan had just finished branding his cattle and was starting to feed them when the lightning struck him, according to Jackson County Coroner George Crocket. Crocket said the storm blew in just northwest of Rand, and the lightning knocked 100 head of cattle off their feet, 34 of them were killed.

Morgan died at the scene "despite life-saving efforts performed by bystanders and first responders," the sheriff's office stated. Morgan's father-in-law and wife were nearby but survived the blast, according to The Associated Press.

The cattle gathering closely around Morgan's trailer, as he was feeding them hay, is likely what caused their death. Lightning's deadly charge can travel long distances through the ground or metal objects.

"Our western ranching community will feel this for a long time," fellow rancher VanWinkle Ranch posted on Facebook. "We all know what we do has a high degree of risk. We do it anyway. We do it for the livestock. We do it for the landscape. We do it for food security. We do it for our family, past, present and future. We do it because it feels right. We do it because it is right."

According to the National Lightning Safety Council, 14 people were killed by lightning in the U.S. and its territories in 2023.