A freak lightning storm battered a California beach, killing a 20-year-old man with a blast of electricity and injuring 13 more along the coast.
Beachgoers watched a big storm roll across the horizon, but had no idea it was headed their way and would zap about a dozen people along the Venice Beach Boardwalk.
When the lightning hit at about 2:20 p.m., it sounded like “just one big explosion,” Ruben Tumbaga, 36, told the Daily News.
“Right when I saw it hit the ground, I closed my eyes and flinched,” Tumbaga, of Long Beach, Calif., said.
He cracked his eyes open and saw the aftermath.
Smoke feathered from the water’s edge where a body boarder floated in the water. He was conscious and breathing, but Tumbaga thought “he was dead at first.”
“He was pretty much just dead weight being carried out of the water,” Tumbaga said.
Lifeguards and others rushed to help the older man, even passing a man who exclaimed he’d been hit as well, because the older man in the water needed their attention.
Chest compressions brought the boarder back to life, and he slowly started breathing again “like a fish out of water,” Tumbaga added.
There was no need to brace for another impact, because after that, there was nothing but rain pounding the beach.
A 15-year-old boy was among those hit by the lightning. Medics took eight people to a local hospital, including two adults in critical condition after the thunderstorm hit the area.
It’s not clear which of the lightning victims died, but first responders believed a swimmer and surfer took the brunt of the damage. They were taken to Marine Del Rey Hospital and Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, reported KABC-TV.
Four other victims were treated at the beach by medics and released.
Photos show paramedics helping the body boarder in the bed of a pickup truck, revived after the storm, but other patients were being assessed as well.
A storm of such caliber has rarely been seen along the California coast. It was sparked by monsoon moisture and was described as very loud and bright by witnesses — and sent people scattering from the beach as lightning hit several people.
The strike threw Melinda Love Steele, 34, to the ground at the water’s edge.
“I thought we were getting hit by bombs or something,” Steele told the Daily News.
In a panic, Steele managed to get up and run to her friends, asking if she was okay. However, she turned around only to see the surfer in critical condition lying on the ground barely ten feet away from where she had been standing.
“I really thought I was the one that got hit,” Steele said. “My friends felt it, too.”
The storm managed to strike down another man, 57, at a golf course on Catalina Island off the coast, but he is in stable condition.
This is the 16th person to die from a lightning strike so far in 2014, according to the National Weather Service.
Lightning struck a 41-year-old man walking along Fort Myers Beach in Florida on Tuesday, July 22, 2014 and another on Wednesday, July 16, 2014 in Sarasota County, a 39-year-old man working on a roof.