One man was killed and at least eight were hurt when lightning from a rare band of summer thunderstorms struck Venice Beach in Los Angeles on a busy Sunday afternoon.
The unidentified man in his 20s died after he was taken from Venice Beach to Marina Del Rey Hospital for treatment.
A second man struck by lightning in Venice was listed as being in a critical condition.
A man is treated by a paramedics after a lightning strike in the water in Venice, California. Photo: Reuters
He and six others, including a 15-year-old, remain in hospital.
Witnesses said the lightning storm seemed to come out of nowhere.
“I heard this crackle,” said one witness, “and there was this giant bolt of lightning shooting across the sky and the loudest thunder I’ve ever heard.”
Lifeguards search for victims of the lightning strike. Photo: Reuters
'He looked purple'
Danielle Real, 15, and Paige Banaga, 13, said they were swimming off Fleet Street at Venice Beach when they heard an explosion and felt the water churn.
"We felt the thunder and it shook us," Danielle said. "It scared us. There was no warning at all," she said.
Lifeguard boats search the waters near a pier for victims of the lightning strike. Photo: Reuters
They swam to the shore, and saw people screaming and whistling for lifeguards as a man lay in the shore break.
"He just looked purple," Paige said.
A man on the beach, a doctor, began administering CPR to the victim, Danielle said. "His eyes were closed. He wasn't responding. He was out of it."
Lifeguards came and took over the CPR, then a red ambulance arrived, and firefighters worked on the victim and whisked him away, the girls said.
About 30 minutes before the thunder, the girls said they saw lightning far south near the airport. But they never thought it would strike them.
Roger Davis was inside his home on Ocean Front Walk when he heard the explosions.
"The whole place shook," he said. He ran outside. His neighbour, a doctor, was giving CPR to a victim, Mr Davis said.
He said firefighters set up a triage area on the south end of the parking lot down from the Venice Pier.
He said he saw them treat two victims, then take them away in ambulances.
Angelica Roquemore said the storm lasted for about 15 minutes.
The sky over the pier turned dark and lightning crashed down a short time later, startling the crowd of fisherman and beachgoers on the pier.
"The minute it struck, there are a few choice words," she said.
"My hair was standing up."
Ms Roquemore, who was visiting the beach with her family, said the thunderclap panicked a good number of people along the section of the pier she was standing on, and a brief fall opf rain sent some scrambling inside.
"You could hear everybody screaming," she said.
Jesus Zamudio arrived at the beach just as rescue crews were clearing victims from the pier and saw a crowd of lifeguards surrounding one victim on the back of a truck.
They were giving the man CPR but he wasn't responding.
"The guy wasn't moving. He wasn't responding at all," Mr Zamudio said. "It was sad to see, the guy looked young."
Mr Zamudio said he was planing to visit the pier about an hour earlier, but got stuck in a traffic jam for which he was now thankful.
Man, 57, struck on island
On nearby Catalina Island, lightning struck a man and ignited several brush fires, authorities said.
The unidentified 57-year-old man did not suffer life-threatening injuries in the strike and was listed in stable condition, Sergeant Robert Berardi of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said.
The unusual midday storm also knocked out electricity on the island, county officials said.
The summer storm set a new record rainfall total for the day in downtown Los Angeles, the US National Weather Service said.
The storm took many beachgoers by surprise.
The possibility of thunderstorms and lightning had been in the forecast, but conditions were also muggy and hot, bringing many to the beach.
At 1.38pm, the National Weather Service put out a bulletin warning of a storm that could produce heavy winds, thunder and "deadly lightning".
An hour later, it recommended people stay indoors in the Venice area if they heard thunder.
Los Angeles Times