Usually, the biggest risks at the beach are strong currents, fin sightings and maybe a jellyfish sting. For this family, though, these dangers paled in comparison to the massive lightning strike that hit four kids and two adult women in the group. Last Thursday afternoon, a group of eight family members and friends headed to Orchard Beach in the Bronx.
While enjoying the sunshine, sand and saltwater, a sudden storm rolled over the area. As is protocol, the lifeguards on the beach pulled patrons out of the water and ushered everyone to get off the beach.
“Prior to the incident, lifeguards had cleared all swimmers from the water, and Parks staff made announcements over the public address system instructing patrons to clear the beach,” Parks Department spokeswoman Meghan Lalor said.
Unlike the fierce and frequent storms of more southern states like Florida, beach storms in New York are not nearly as intense. Likely, many of the folks at Orchard Beach were more concerned about keeping their towels dry than actually becoming a victim of a massive lightning strike. However, the situation quickly turned from an inconvenient patch of weather to a critical situation once the lightning hit the beach.
“They were out for an ordinary day at the beach. Once the rain started they got ready to leave, and out of nowhere, they were struck,” Lalor said.
One Teenager in Critical Condition, Three Others Still Hospitalized After Massive Lightning Strike
One of the adults in the group was Eric Sandoval, whose wife and 13-year-old daughter were both victims of the massive lightning strike. Sandoval and two other adults were accompanying the group of kids to the beach for the afternoon when the incident occurred.
“I was walking on the beach with my family and the lightning struck,” the 34-year-old father recalled.
“It hit my daughter and she went down,” Sandoval said. “I thought she had a heart attack. I went crazy.”
The father reported that he started “screaming” for someone to help them. Thankfully, a bystander came to the scene and delivered chest compressions to the 13-year-old until medics arrived.
“My wife also got struck on her arm but she’s going to be all right,” Sandoval said.
Another victim with more minor injuries in the group was five-year-old Stefon Harris.
“I was able to speak with my 5-year-old over the phone. He seems like he’s going to be OK,” said the child’s father, also named Stefon Harris.
Unfortunately, one teen in the group is still in critical condition. Details about his injury are still unknown. Although, one family member, Alfred Ferrer, reported, “One of them was hurt really bad. They have him in a separate room and they’re working on them.”
Ferrer’s nephew, 15-year-old Miguel Maldonado, was another one of the victims of the massive lightning strike. At the time, Ferrer was still waiting to hear about his nephew’s condition.