A FORMER Albury osteopath felt “the earth was opening up” when a lightning strike hit a Los Angeles beach with an “almighty crack”.
Eric Fontana, who now lives outside Washington DC, was on holidays with his wife and children when he visited Venice Beach on Sunday afternoon.
“None of us saw the lightning bolt hit the water, but it was really easy to localise the direction the sound came from,” Mr Fontana, 37, said yesterday.
“I’ve never seen a crowd of people jump like that before in unison. The sound of the strike was an almighty crack and it came with a force that just went straight through you It felt like the earth was opening for a second.”
The lightning bolt killed a man, 20, and nine people required hospital treatment.
Another four people were struck by the bolt, during the rare July thunderstorm at the popular beach tourist spot.
Mr Fontana said he did not realise the gravity of the situation until he returned to his car.
“Venice is pretty crowded on weekends and there is a lot going on so, when you hear sirens you don’t tend to think much of it,” he said.
“It didn’t occur to us anyone had been hurt until about an hour later when we got into the car.
“I switched on the radio and they were announcing several people had been taken to hospital in a critical condition.
“Everyone affected by the lightning was either swimming or close to the water.
“We were lucky we had no plans to swim today.
“The phrase ‘a bolt out of the blue’ couldn’t have been more appropriate.
“I’ve seen plenty of clouds that looked more ominous than the one I saw today. I never expected to experience such a raw force of nature from what appeared to be a fairly typical dark rain cloud.”
The ferocity of the lightning strike was reflected in the experience of victim Stuart Acher who was playing volleyball on the beach.
“All of a sudden there was a big flash of light and a boom. It felt like someone had punched me in the back of my head,” he said.
“It went down. The whole right side of my body and my calves sort of locked up and I fell over.
“I looked up and everybody else was, you know, falling over.”
Fire officials say most of those taken to hospitals were only shaken and would recover quickly.