With a thunderstorm moving in, and lifeguards working to clear the area, three people were injured — one critically — when they were hit by lightning as they stood in ankle-deep water about five feet from the shoreline at Haulover Beach on Wednesday afternoon.
According to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, the lightning first hit the water at about 4:15 p.m. at the beach at 10800 Collins Avenue and then hit the three people in the water.
One person was treated on the beach and airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center; the two others were taken to area hospitals, said Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Lt. Matthew Sparling. Two of the victims were rendered unconscious and one of the victims said he felt chest pain and collapsed, he added.
Sparling, standing by the lifeguard station, said he did not know the exact age of the victims, but said all three were male, likely in their 40s or 50s and were in the same group.
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“We had just closed the beach about 10 minutes before it occurred due to a lightning strike in the area,” Sparling said. “The lightning had dissipated throughout the water and the electricity traveled through the water and hit the individuals — likely causing cardiac arrest in the individual that was treated at the scene.”
The beach was closed for 30 minutes after the strike, then it reopened, said Trenese Prater, public affairs manager for Miami-Dade Fire.
By 6 p.m., the weather cleared with sunny skies, but only a handful of people were in or near the water. A few people strolled on the concrete walkway at the entrance to the beach.
Prater said Wednesday’s strike was the first in “quite some time.”
She warned beachgoers to be careful.
“If there is evidence of lightning or you see dark clouds, get out of the water,” she said.
Sparling said seven lifeguards attended to the three victims after the incident occurred. They and other members of the lifeguard unit were in the process of clearing the beach, raising warning flags and verbally warning and motioning the crowd to clear the beach.
Sparling said the strike occurred roughly five feet from the shoreline.
“Some people move quicker than others and some aren’t aware of the danger,” Sparling said. “We were still in the process of clearing everyone out when this occurred. I’ve been working this beach for 19 years and I can’t remember something like this happening.”