CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – A man was struck by lightning at Clearwater Beach. It happened just after noon near Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill. The bolt injured at least eight people.
“When we first got here it was all Sunny, and then the clouds started coming in and the wind started going,” says Teena Shelton who was enjoying the beach with her family.
It’s a typical summer day in Florida: hot, sunny, with a high chance of afternoon thunderstorms. Dark heavy clouds rolled in Sunday afternoon around 12:30 at Clearwater Beach and families started packing up.
“I saw them walking across the thing and then the lightning came out of nowhere and it hit dead square in front,” says Shelton.
At the volleyball courts behind Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill eight people felt an electric shock from above.
“That one girl started acting funny. The one guy said he couldn’t feel his hands,” says Shelton.
“The one gentleman that was directly hit his whole shirt was burnt. There was actually no material where lightning struck him. It was just a burnt hole,” says Ryan Tuttle who was inside Frenchy’s at the time.
Customers inside the restaurant and others nearby jumped into action as rain pounded down on top of them.
“They’re trying to carry this man. He was a big guy! They’re trying to carry him and… so it took all four of us to get each leg and arm to try, cause he was dead weight,” says Shelton.
Witnesses say an off duty police officer and a nurse helped bring victims into the restaurant and started giving CPR. First responders from the fire station one parking lot away showed up in minutes.
“It’s the best thing we could hope for with the victims because aid was started immediately on the victims as opposed to having to wait the 2 to 3 minutes for our crews to get en route and get on scene,” Chief Greg Newland with the Clearwater Fire Department.
Four people were taken to Morton Plant Hospital. Three people are in Good Condition, one is still in Critical Condition. One other victim was taken to Tampa General Hospital with burn wounds.