Lightning Strike at Florida Beach Leaves 8 Injured

A lightning strike at a Florida beach injured eight people on July 21, Clearwater Police Department Lt. Michael Ogliaruso said.

Witnesses reported seeing the eight people either falling or being thrown when the lightning struck Clearwater Beach, near Tampa, Ogliaruso told CNN.

One man in his 40s was directly hit by the strike, fire rescue officials told CNN affiliate WFTS-TV. The man went into cardiac arrest and is in critical condition, WFTS reported.

Three employees of a Jet Ski rental company and two foreign tourists were among the injured, though the extent of their injuries was unclear, Ogliaruso said.

Four people, including the man struck by lightning, were taken to the hospital, Ogliaruso said.

Three of those taken to the hospital had non-life threatening injuries. The three others involved declined treatment.

It’s not uncommon for people to stay on the beach and watch the storms, Ogliaruso said.

“It was one of those bad Florida storms. It came and now it’s gone sunny and clear out,” Ogliaruso said. “As dangerous as they are, they’re also pretty spectacular.”

Clearwater Fire and Rescue told WFTS that beachgoers should take cover and go to a safe place when lightning and thunder storms are in the vicinity.

“Clearwater Fire and Rescue uses the phrase: When you hear the roar, go indoors,” the fire department said.

Recent Incidents

Last month, Lion County Safari officials confirmed that two giraffes were killed by a lightning strike during a storm several weeks ago.

Officials in the Palm Beach County, Florida, park said that 1-year-old Jioni and 10-year-old Lily were killed by lightning 6 weeks ago. Testing recently confirmed the development, WPTV reported on June 11, which added that the animals were not related.

“The whole team here was devastated and we’re still in the mourning process weeks later,” said Haley Passeser, a spokesperson for Lion Country Safari, to the station. “There were a lot of tears shed. Some of our keepers had to take some personal time off to process.”

Tanzania-I-Giraffes.-Barbara-Angelakis
Giraffes on the Serengeti. (Barbara Angelakis)

When thunderstorms hit the area weeks ago, officials opened up the animal shelter area in the park, but it is up to the animals themselves whether they seek shelter or stay outside.

Passeser noted that the severe weather approached the park with little warning.

“We do try to provide them a lot of choice, and in a case such as that when we ourselves are also seeking shelter,” said Passeser, “if they don’t choose to seek shelter, there isn’t a lot we can do to encourage them to.”

Days before that, a motorcyclist died on June 9 after he was struck by lightning while traveling down Interstate 95 in Volusia County, Florida.

The Florida Highway Patrol posted a picture of the rider’s helmet on Twitter, showing what appears to be two holes at the top.

“This is what’s left of a 45-year-old man’s helmet after he was struck by lightning, while riding his motorcycle southbound, on I-95 in Volusia County this afternoon. Unfortunately he did not survive the crash,” the highway patrol’s Orlando office wrote.

The U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) says that lightning “is a major cause of storm-related deaths” in the United States.

“A lightning strike can result in a cardiac arrest (heart stopping) at the time of the injury, although some victims may appear to have a delayed death a few days later if they are resuscitated but have suffered irreversible brain damage,” according to the weather agency.

The average number of lightning-related deaths reported in the United States is 29 per year. About 243 people are injured annually, it adds.

“Over the last 30 years (1989-2018) the U.S. has averaged 43 reported lightning fatalities per year. Only about 10 percent of people who are struck by lightning are killed, leaving 90 percent with various degrees of disability. More recently, in the last 10 years (2009-2018), the U.S. has averaged 27 lightning fatalities,” the agency says.

Epoch Times reporter Jack Phillips contributed to this report.

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