A 31-year-old hiker survived a lightning strike to his head that was so severe, it tore off his clothes and burned a hole in his shoe.
The horrifying moment happened as Mathias Steinhuber reached the 9,000-foot summit of a northern California mountain range ahead of his companions.
The electricity had shot through his body and exited through his foot, and he was too stunned to realize what took place.
“It was like in a dream,” the Austrian teacher said from a California hospital. “I woke up. I had blood everywhere. My clothes were ripped apart. At some distance I heard my girlfriend scream my name. My first conclusion was that I probably fell down the mountain.”
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Steinhuber had bruises from his fall and a number of burns that he said were mostly superficial. The hair on one of his arms was singed when he spoke to the Associated Press at a Sacramento burn center. He’s also having trouble hearing through his left ear.
He and his girlfriend were hiking a stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail as they neared the end of a month-long trip to the U.S. Steinhuber does not remember being struck.
“He was taking a picture and the next thing I know, I see this white flash, like an explosion,” the couple’s friend Cara Elvidge said in a phone interview with the AP.
Elvidge and Kathrin Klausner took shelter and called for help. A helicopter landed nearby and dropped off a paramedic who tended to Steinhuber, who was taken to a hospital in nearby Truckee then flown to the burn center in Sacramento.
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“The fact that he survived is very lucky,” Jim Matthews of the National Weather Center told CBS in Sacramento. “The storms can develop very rapidly and be on top of you in a matter of seconds, it seems.”
“Somebody told me the odds are higher winning the lottery than getting struck by lightning,” Steinhuber said. “I would’ve rather won the lottery.”
With News Wire Services
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