Boater struck by lightning on Ohio River

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By Tracy Harris

North Oldham was literally a lightning rod during recent summer storms, with emergency crews responding to at least four lightning-strike fires in two days.

The worst strike came July 19 while five people were on board a pleasure boat on the Ohio River.

Officials say boaters were headed back to shore when the storm hit.

Crews from North Oldham Fire and Oldham County EMS arrived just after 5:30 p.m. to find the boat had made it to shore near Sieg’s on the River, formerly Heather’s.

Don Dahl, assistant chief at NOFD, said it was difficult getting to Sieg’s because of a downed tree and other debris.

Dahl said crews found the instrument panel of the boat severely damaged from the strike, with glass in the gauges blown out.

One teen was transported to University of Louisville hospital with serious injuries, who appeared to have suffered the brunt of the lightning strike.

The boat’s other passengers all refused transport for minor injuries.

That incident was the first of many that crews responded to Thursday evening. 

NOFD also put out tree fires caused by lightning on Poplar Woods Drive and S. Buckeye Lane that started around 6:15 p.m.

Dahl said NOFD also responded to other possible lightning strikes Wednesday evening, including a significant tree fire behind the Goshen post office. 

Several other strikes were reported in the Hillcrest subdivision.

While the storms hit the county’s north side hardest as they came down from Indiana, crews across the county stayed busy Thursday evening.

Fire crews were dispatched to at least nine different locations across the county between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m.

Several calls were just fire alarms, according to Emergency Management Director Kevin Nuss. 

Alarm systems often go off when there are electrical surges or power losses, he said.

Crews from Ballardsville Fire, South Oldham Fire and La Grange Fire & Rescue all arrived at a possible house fire in the 5500 block of Eastwood Drive around 6:15 p.m.

Crews did not find evidence of a lightning strike in the area, however.

The last storm-related call came in at 6:30 p.m., when SOFD crews arrived on Watch Hill Drive for a tree fire.

No injuries or significant damage were reported.

The summer’s heat and high humidity have produced several serious thunderstorms this month, including one July 1 that struck two houses in Prospect. 

Lightning can travel through utility cables, including electricity, cable and telephone wires.

While it is impossible to predict where lightning will strike, homeowners are advised to protect their electronics by plugging them into surge protectors or unplugging them entirely.

Lightning often sets fires in attics or basements, fire officials say, and can burn unnoticed for hours before becoming serious.

Residents are advised to call 911 if they believe lightning has struck.


Email us about this story at: tharris@oldhamera.com.