Austin man struck by lightning while camping

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by ALBERT RAMON / KVUE News and Photojournalist DOUG NAUGLE

Bio | Email | Follow: @AlbertR_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on November 15, 2012 at 1:03 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 15 at 7:33 PM

AUSTIN -- You don't meet many people who have been struck by lightning and lived to tell about it.

"It was the worst pain you can ever conceive of. It was brief, but it was tremendous pain," said Joshua White of Austin.

Joshua White, along with his younger brother Colton Connelly and friend Ian Richmond, were in the Sierra Mountains this past August. They were on a two-week hiking adventure along the John Muir Trail, starting at Yosemite and ending at Mount Whitney. The men were just a day away from the summit of Mount Whitney when a storm moved in. The storm brought rain, hail, and lightning.

White, Connelly and Richmond took shelter in their tent. 

"We were all laying on our backs and we could see a very intense light come towards us," said White.

A bolt of lightning struck the tent. The deafening crash of thunder was followed by intense pain.

"It's as if every nerve is firing in your body. It's just pins and needles everywhere," said White.

Smoke was coming off their bodies and out of their mouths. White thought he was on fire. 

"I literally was ripping my clothes off, trying to put myself out," he said.

Thankfully White was not on fire. And although stunned and in a panic, the hikers were okay. 

The men escaped the Sierra Mountains without serious injury. They were able to conquer  the summit of Mount Whitney the next day and made it back to Texas safely a few days later.

"He's lucky, 10 percent of people basically die from lightning strikes," said Andy Hawthorne, a Trauma Surgeon at St. David's Round Rock Medical Center.

"In the United States about 500 people a year are struck by lightning. Of those, 40 to 50 on average die here in the U.S," Hawthorne said.

Hawthorne said short term affects after being struck by lightning can range from unconsciousness to headaches and dizziness. And in some cases, if the strike crosses the cardiac system, your heart may be a risk.

If you find yourself in a thunderstorm, seek shelter immediately.  Experts recommend an enclosed building or a vehicle.

"You know, you think all the worst thoughts. Am I going to have to take my dead brother out of here?  How am I going to get him home or my friend? You know there is no rescue," said White.

Luckily for White, Connelly and Richmond, the worst did not happen. Now they prepare for their next adventure.

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