Healthy Family | Home Safety | Health and Wealth | Relationship Issues | Career Advice | Growing Family
Get the SixWise e-Newsletter FREE!
Google Web
Free Newsletter Subscription
Get the Web's Most trusted & Informative Health, Wealth, Safety & More Newsletter -- FREE!


Share Email to a Friend Print This

Six Very Short Tales of People Actually Struck by Lightening (& How to Prevent it Happening to You)

While the idea of actually being struck by lightning sounds about as likely as winning the lottery, it does happen.

In fact, about 73 people are killed by lightning every year -- that's more than are killed by tornadoes or hurricanes -- and an estimated 400 are struck and survive, according to the American Red Cross (though this number may be low because officials believe many events are not reported). Getting struck by lightning is no laughing matter -- a bolt can reach temperatures of nearly 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

lightning strikes

Lightning strikes the earth an average of 100 times per second, or 8.6 million times a day, according to the American Red Cross.

Those who have been injured by lightning and are lucky enough to survive may have permanent injuries including memory loss, attention deficits, sleep disorders, numbness, dizziness, joint stiffness, weakness and depression.

Just how often does lightning strike? Weather officials say the United States receives up to 20 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes per year.

"Many people believe that lightning is infrequent and that it's not a significant risk, which is very misleading," said Rocky Lopes, senior associate for disaster education at the American Red Cross.

The people in the six tales below would probably agree, as they have actually been struck by lightning -- and lived to tell about it.

1. Gold Crucifix and Chain Melted Around His Neck

Jason Crawford, 31, was riding a dirt bike in Gunnison County, Colorado when it started sprinkling lightly and a lightning bolt struck him out of the blue. The strike caused him to do a back flip off his bike and twist in the air before landing on the ground.

The strike melted a part of his bike helmet, fractured his skull and left burn scars on his chest and arm. A gold chain and crucifix he wore around his neck also melted, leaving the pattern of a rope burned into his skin. According to doctors, if Crawford had not been wearing the helmet, he probably would have died.

2. Struck by Lightning in Her Own Kitchen

Lightning struck Elizabeth Mena while she was cooking in her Lebanon, Pennsylvania home. She was standing near the back door when the lightning came through the door, throwing her against the stove.

An ambulance was called, but her injuries were not serious enough to need hospital treatment.

lightning strikes

Jason Crawford was struck by lightning, causing burn scars, a fractured skull and a gold chain and crucifix to melt around his neck.

"I'm not going in my kitchen for a while," Mena said.

3. Teen Talking on a Cell Phone

A 15-year-old girl was talking on a cell phone in a London park during a storm when lightning struck her. The girl has no memory of the incident, but she had a cardiac arrest and required resuscitation. A year later, the girl must use a wheelchair and has severe physical difficulties, brain damage and emotional and cognitive problems. She also has a burst eardrum in the ear where she was holding the phone, along with hearing loss.

According to researchers in the British Medical Journal, the metal in a cell phone causes the lightning current to go into the body, causing even more severe injuries.

4. Struck by Lightning Seven Times

Park ranger Roy Sullivan holds the record for being struck by lightning, according to the Guiness Book of World Records. From 1942 to 1977, he was struck seven times, earning him the nickname "human lightning conductor," along with various injuries to his arms, legs, chest and stomach. Due to the lightning strikes, Sullivan had also lost his big toe nail and had his hair set alight and his eyebrows burned off.

5. 2.5-Inch Exit Wound on Right Foot

Two teens, Zach O'Neal, 15, and Ernie Elbert, 16, were struck by lightning while hiking in southern Colorado. The bolt entered O'Neal near his right eye with enough force to blow his shoes 10 feet away. Some of the current exited through his head, but most of it went out of his feet, causing a 2.5-inch exit wound on his right foot. He also suffered a ruptured eardrum.

Elbert, who initially couldn't feel his legs after the strike, was able to perform CPR on his friend. The strike was strong enough to also shred their clothing and cause surface burns.

The teens were rescued by a helicopter and are expected to make full recoveries.

6. Realized He Was Struck Five Hours Later

Alistair Fellows, 43, from the UK, was struck by lightning after he got out of his van during a storm -- but he didn't realize it until hours later. Fellows didn't feel anything at the time, but his arm swelled up five hours later, and his wife noticed a mark on his arm. He also had slight problems with his hearing and sight.

"There was a flash, and the thunder and lightning came at the same time. I didn't realize anything had happened until a bit later on," Fellows said.

Keys to Avoid a Lightning Strike

Many injuries from lightning strikes can be prevented by knowing what to do during stormy weather.

"If you hear thunder, you are in danger from lightning," Lopes says. "Thunder means that lightning is close enough that it could hit your location at any minute, so you should immediately move indoors or into a hard-topped vehicle and stay there until after the lightning storm ends. The single most important thing to remember is to seek shelter."

You should also:

  • Avoid tall, isolated objects (such as trees)

  • Avoid metal objects like wire fences and golf clubs

  • Avoid using your cell phone outdoors during a storm

  • Avoid rivers, lakes and streams

  • Avoid electronics, including telephones and TV sets, as the wires can transmit the lightning

  • Avoid bathtubs, water faucets and sinks because metal pipes conduct electricity

Finally, if you're in a field and your hair stands on end, it means lightning is about to strike. You should lean forward with your hands on your knees and crouch (don't lie flat on the ground). If you're stuck in the woods, your best bet is to seek shelter under a low clump of trees.

Recommended Reading

Severe Weather: The Most to Least Fatal & the Key Steps to Save Your Life

Electrocution: The Six Top Danger Points and How to Avoid Them


The Denver Channel

American Red Cross

BBC Weather

BBC News June 22, 2006

Dallas Morning News

BBC News August 24, 2006

To get more information about this and other highly important topics, sign up for your free subscription to our weekly "Be Safe, Live Long & Prosper" e-newsletter.

With every issue of the free newsletter, you’ll get access to the insights, products, services, and more that can truly improve your well-being, peace of mind, and therefore your life!

Share Email to a Friend Print This