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‘It threw them in the air:’ Man critically injured by lightning on Clearwater Beach, 7 others hurt

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CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – A man was struck by lightning and seven others were injured at Clearwater Beach just after noon Sunday near Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill.

“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 was 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.

Lightning safety from National Weather Service:

  • NO PLACE outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area!!
  • If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you.
  • When you hear thunder, immediately move to safe shelter: a substantial building with electricity or plumbing or an enclosed, metal-topped vehicle with windows up.
  • Stay in safe shelter at least 30 minutes after you hear the last sound of thunder.

Indoor Safety Tips:

  • Stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity.
  • Avoid plumbing, including sinks, baths and faucets.
  • Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
  • Do not lie on concrete floors, and do not lean against concrete walls

Last resort outdoor risk reduction tips:

If you are caught outside with no safe shelter anywhere nearby the following actions may reduce your risk:

  • Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks
  • Never lie flat on the ground
  • Never shelter under an isolated tree
  • Never use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter
  • Immediately get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water
  • Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (barbed wire fences, power lines, windmills, etc.)

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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