Lightning strikes injure man, create brush fire in Sand Key Park

Published July 24, 2014

CLEARWATER — A 44-year-old Tampa man was injured Thursday after lightning struck the ground at Sand Key Park, officials said.

Samuel Sepulveda was on the sand about 25 yards south of the lifeguard tower just before noon when the strike hit near him. He was taken to Largo Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries.

It hadn't been raining or actively storming when a bolt first struck at the unoccupied north end of the beach, sparking a small brush fire. Clearwater firefighters, based at the station right outside the park, put it out within minutes. Within seconds, another struck nearer beachgoers.

"The first one, I heard it. The second one, I felt it," said Clermont resident Bill Osowski, 65. "I felt it in my feet. In fact, my feet were numb for a while ... Then I heard the screaming."

Osowski, a retired police officer from Delaware, said he looked over and Sepulveda was face-down on the sand "flailing in the air and shaking." He said he ran over to Sepulveda, who was blue in the face, helped him sit up and wiped the sand from his mouth.

Just as other Pinellas County lifeguards were beginning to temporarily close the beach, lifeguard Jorge Perdomo said he heard Osowski and other people calling for help. Perdomo came by in his car and took Sepulveda to an area away from the beach. There Perdomo gave Sepulveda oxygen until the ambulance arrived.

"People just need to listen to the lifeguards," said Perdomo, who has 10 years as a lifeguard. "Any time it storms, they need to get off the beach, immediately. Lightning is not predictable."