A man took an indirect hit from lightning Tuesday morning while working in the Fort Victoria RV Park, says View Royal Fire Department’s acting chief.
The lightning struck a tree about 9:30 a.m., and the current travelled through the ground and made contact with the man, Rob Marshall said. The man’s condition is not known.
The fire crew heard booming thunder and saw a bolt of lightning, Marshall said.
“We had actually thought that it hit our building,” he said, explaining that the firehall is directly across the road. “It was so loud, we were actually checking the roof structure of the building to make sure there were no strikes on it when we were paged out for an electrocution.”
RV park resident Evan Williams said he saw the incident and made the 911 call that brought firefighters and paramedics to the scene.
“I went out to assist the man,” said Williams, who has training as a medic. “He was not knocked out. He was fully conscious. He was able to tell me his name.”
The man was filling a tank with propane when he was struck, about three metres from the tree that took the direct force of the lightning, Marshall said.
The current travelling through the ground likely struck him through his feet, he said. “We’re assuming that he had steel-toe, steel-shank boots on, and that it went up one leg, down the other leg.
“He had no entry or exit wounds from the electricity, but he was definitely in a severe amount of pain.”
Marshall said it was an “extremely rare” occurrence.
“It’s rare enough to have lightning here, let alone have someone struck,” he said. “This is just an unfortunate incident, where it came upon us so quickly.”
Williams said he saw the flash of the lightning when it hit the tree, adding it was fortunate the View Royal firehall was close by.
He said he saw a lot of lightning when he lived in Williams Lake. “I saw close calls on the property I used to own.”
Environment Canada meteorologist Cindy Yu said the clashes of air masses that can cause thunderstorms happen more frequently in the B.C.’s Interior than in coastal areas. Yu said there is a basic safety tip to follow during thunderstorms: “When thunder roars, go indoors.”
According to Environment Canada, lightning causes up to 10 deaths and 164 injuries across the country each year. Only five per cent of death and injury is caused by direct hits, while 60 to 80 per cent is caused by two types of incidents: a “ground current” hit, when lightning hits the ground and sends a current through a person as it spreads out, as in this case; and a “side splash,” when lightning hits a tall object, travels partway down and then jumps to a person nearby.
Environment Canada advises going inside a fully enclosed building with wiring and plumbing or a vehicle with a metal roof — lightning will travel around the outside of a metal-framed vehicle and protect passengers — staying there 30 minutes after the final blast of thunder is heard.
Going into a tent or picnic shelter or under a tree is not safe during a thunderstorm, Environment Canada said.