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Lightning Strike: Reminder to be Prepared

Timelapse Lightning Photo. NOAA

Lightning Strike
“Safety Moments, presented at CCA Stations and Posts”

By Eric Thyrre, Florida Station, February 2023


A day of family boating on Tampa Bay in summer generally means nice mornings and thunderstorms likely in the mid to late afternoon.

Mom, Dad, and two sons (age 11 and 9) headed out in their flats boat to a beach for a little swimming. They chose a morning departure from the boat ramp to avoid the afternoon weather common in Florida. After lunch, they noticed a thunderstorm forming inshore. An early departure (1300) was decided upon.

As they approached the boat ramp and waited for the ramp traffic to clear, they prepared to dock and haul out. The older son was standing on the foredeck with a dock line.

The weather at the ramp was sunny and clear, yet lightning struck the son standing on the bow. The lightning bolt came in his tail bone and out his foot. The son immediately went overboard and started to sink. The father jumped overboard and recovered his unresponsive son from the brackish, murky waters. The mother and other son remained on board the boat and called 911. They were unable to assist further as the boat’s motor shut down due to the lightning strike.

Another boater rescued the father and son. The father started CPR as no pulse was detected. Approximately 4 minutes later the sheriff’s department showed up with an AED. The AED was applied; paramedics transported the son to the hospital. The son regained consciousness the following morning with no internal damage but burns to his back and foot. He was released from the hospital 4 days later.

Some thoughts and lessons:

  1. The father was current and proficient in CPR. I can’t remember my last CPR lesson but will take a refresher. 
  2. Life jacket was not worn but could have made the recovery easier.
  3. The lightning came from local clear skies, not only under a thunderstorm.
  4. The lightning struck the son despite the flats boat being in an area with numerous sailboats. The highest object around is not always the one that gets struck.

The Cruising Club of America is a collection of accomplished ocean sailors having extensive boat handling, seamanship, and command experience honed over many years. “Safety Moments” are written by the Club’s Safety Officers from CCA Stations across North America and Bermuda, as well as CCA members at large.  They are published by the CCA Safety and Seamanship Committee and are intended to advance seamanship and safety by highlighting new technologies, suggestions for safe operation and reports of maritime disasters around the world.