Man critical after lightning strike in St. Augustine Beach

Fire Rescue says man struck Tuesday evening while on second-floor deck

ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH, Fla. – A 29-year-old man struck by lightning Tuesday evening outside a home on Ajo Road is in critical condition, according to the St. Johns County Fire Rescue Department. 

According to the police report, rescuers found Luke Shimer on an outside upper deck of the home just before 7 p.m. 

The homeowner, the victim's father-in-law, told police that he heard a loud clap of thunder and his son smelled something burning. When he walked around the house to investigate, they saw Shimer lying on the deck.

Family members performed CPR until paramedics arrived. Shimer was resuscitated and taken to Flagler Hospital.

"Twice we heard such a loud lightning and thunder that we knew it hit somewhere," said Gisela Prange, who lives across the street from her neighbor who was struck by lightning. "You hear it always, but this time, it was the first time that it was so close."

Police noted that there was charring on the wooden deck, some decorative lighting was damaged and the victim's cellphone case was found in pieces, with the phone itself found in the dirt under the deck.

"The symptoms following a lightning strike could be various, depending on how severe the strike was, if it was a direct strike versus if it was a strike that hit something in the vicinity and you just received a residual bit of that shock that occurred," said SJCFR public information officer Capt. Jeremy Robshaw. "That particularly could of just been an anomaly where something happened. It’s a tragedy, and we certainly have to deal with that. That’s a possibility when dealing with the unpredictability of nature.”

News4Jax contacted the man's family, but they requested privacy at this time. 

Lightning from the same thunderstorm also struck a house on Green Turtle Lane at 6:47 p.m. Tuesday.

While Fire Rescue said the lightning strike did not cause a fire, there was a fire reported about 30 minutes later at a home on Datil Pepper Road. Fire investigators are trying to figure out whether the fire was caused by lightning.   

Robshaw said the potential for these types of incidents increases in the summer months because of more thunderstorm activity and lightning strikes.

"We are the capital for the world really when it comes to lightning, so I think it's something, awareness is they key. If people are aware that lightning is ongoing, to find a safe place, a safe place with shelter where you can be protected," Robshaw said. 

News4Jax Chief Meteorologist John Gaugh has several tips about what to do during a thunderstorm.

He said people must be in a house or car with the windows up, and halfway doesn't count. He also said lightning frequencies increase as summer heat builds, so prepare for afternoon storms. 

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