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Bolt kills boater near bay bridge

Lightning strikes a boat near the Howard Frankland Bridge. A second boater is hospitalized with injuries.


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 24, 2000

TAMPA -- One man was killed and another hospitalized when lightning struck their boat Friday night on Tampa Bay near the Howard Frankland Bridge, authorities said.

The two men were in waist-deep water off the end of Cypress Street at the Tampa end of the bridge when lightning struck shortly before 8:45 p.m. One man was thrown overboard and the second man hit in the arm and leg.

Firefighters arrived and performed CPR on the man who fell overboard, but he did not survive. It was not immediately clear whether he died from the lightning or drowned.

The second man was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital for treatment. Their names were not available Friday night, but the survivor was said to be a 25-year-old Tampa man.

Tampa Fire Rescue Capt. Bill Wade said the survivor told rescuers he might have been asleep near the back of the 15-foot fiberglass boat when the lightning hit. He woke up dazed in the boat and found his friend, who had been using a cast net at the front of the boat, floating in the water.

The survivor jumped into the water and pulled his friend to shore at a strip of beach near the Bay West Commerce office park. He used a cell phone to call for help.

Paramedics were forced to rip down a 20-foot section of 6-foot chainlink fence to reach the boaters. Officials said neither victim had any visible signs of being hit by lightning.

The survivor was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital for treatment to his arm and leg. His condition was unknown Friday night, but he did not appear to be seriously injured.

The incident was the latest of several recent lightning strikes that have injured or killed residents of the Tampa Bay area. Last week, four people were injured when lightning struck a shelter near a golf pro shop at the Citrus Hills Golf & Country Club in Citrus County.

Friday's lighting strike was part of a thunderstorm that moved westward over parts of Tampa and Tampa Bay.

Lightning was reported over MacDill Air Force Base, downtown Tampa and the Howard Frankland. But the storm weakened before it reached St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.

"It went right over the Howard Frankland, then kind of died just on the other side of the bridge," said Karl Loper, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Ruskin.

The storm blew westward from a cluster of thunderstorms over the Plant City area.

It scoured the Tampa area from roughly 8 to 9 p.m. Another storm pounded the Palm Harbor-Tarpon Springs area.

Thunderstorms are likely along the coast today, especially in the morning rather than the afternoon, Loper said.

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