Four Swimmers Injured by Lightning
here for update!
July 26, 2005
The following report is rewritten from
an article first publshed by CHRIS TISCH, St. Petersburg Times Staff
Clearwater Beach- An afternoon thunderstorm rolled onto Clearwater
Beach, Florida, Saturday, bringing heavy rain and dangerous lightning.
Micheal Pitcher and his girlfriend
saw the storm coming and sought safety under a pier. They looked
back and saw about 20 people still in the water.
"All those people out in the water,
somebody's going to get struck by lightning," Pitcher said.
Just as he said those words, a lightning bolt struck the beach,
knocking three people unconscious. A fourth person, a pregnant woman,
also was hit by lightning but remained conscious, emergency officials
Two people sustained critical injuries
and were taken to Morton Plant Hospital. Two others with serious
injuries were taken to Bayfront Medical Center and Largo Medical
The injured were identified as 19-year-old
Casey Douglas and her fiancé, Darrell Fults, 22, who were
on vacation from Franklin, Tennessee, a pregnant woman, Susan Darquea,
and an unidentified teenage girl from Ecuador.
Pitcher, 46, and girlfriend Susan Berg,
35, said it appeared that Fults was standing in water that was not
even waist high, took a direct hit. He looked to be coming toward
shore when the bolt struck his head, Pitcher said.
The bolt flickered for about three
seconds. Then, Fult's arms went up in the air and the electricity
appeared to lift him out of the water, Pitcher said. When the bolt
disappeared, he dropped back in the water and sank, Pitcher said.
"It sucked him right out of the
water," said Pitcher, a hospice nurse from Port Richey. "The
lightning stopped, and it dropped him. I couldn't believe it. It
A firetruck had been on the beach's
roundabout when the bolt hit. Firefighters steered toward the beach,
then were flagged down. They ran to the beach and summoned vital
signs from all three unconscious victims, said Joel Gray, assistant
chief for Clearwater Fire Rescue.
Bystanders jumped in the water and
dragged Fults ashore, unconscious and critically injured by the
lightning strike. The other three victims were also brought on shore
After an initially poor prognosis,
Fults' condition was upgraded Monday morning to fair at Morton Plant
Hospital in Clearwater, offering relief to family members who rushed
to his bedside from Tennessee.
``I had bad feelings on the way down
here,'' said Gentry Fox, Fults' stepfather, who is an assistant
fire chief in Smyrna, Tenn. ``I was fearing the worst.''
Douglas recovered more quickly, though
her memory of the lightning strike is hazy. During the ambulance
ride to the hospital, she could not remember her name when asked
by paramedics. Her chest ached from the CPR they administered.
Fults regained consciousness Sunday
and started breathing on his own. Although dazed, he spoke to Douglas
on Monday, asking about their 1-month-old son.
"He understands where he is at
and what has happened,'' Fox said.
Douglas said doctors told her that
she and Fults should expect no complications, though they will undergo
further examination. Douglas was discharged from Morton Plant on
Susan Darquea, was first was taken
to Largo Medical Center and was transferred to Bayfront Medical
Center in St. Petersburg. She was released Sunday.
The unidentified teenage girl from
Ecuador was also was taken to Largo Medical Center but was transferred
to an undisclosed location.
The incident shows the danger of fast-moving
afternoon storms in summertime Florida, which has more lightning
strikes per year than anywhere in the nation.
Gray, the assistant fire chief, said
a lightning strike packs up to 1 billion volts of electricity. A
bolt also can strike from up to 10 miles away. The average strike
comes from 6 miles away and carries about 50,000 degrees of heat,
which is four times as much as the sun's surface.
[Last modified July 24, 2005, 00:22:18]