One man died and at least eight people were injured on Sunday in a lightning strike during a rare thunderstorm at Venice Beach in Los Angeles, officials said.
The bolt of electricity made a loud crack that sounded like an explosion on a warm and overcast afternoon, witnesses said.
“I heard this crackle and there was this giant bolt of lightning shooting across the sky and the loudest thunder I’ve ever heard,” witness Joe Doro told KCAL-TV.
Victims were apparently in the water or very close to it when the lightning struck, local officials told the broadcaster.
The eight survivors were hospitalized for treatment and observation after the lightning hit near Ocean Front Walk facing the Pacific Ocean, around 2:15 p.m. (2115 GMT), said Los Angeles Fire Department spokeswoman Katherine Main.
A 20-year-old man taken to Marina Del Rey Hospital was later pronounced dead, according to the Los Angeles county coroner’s department.
The cause of death was still being determined, a spokesman said. One other person was in critical condition, Main said, adding that a 15-year-old was among the victims.
On rocky Catalina Island off the coast of nearby Long Beach, a 57-year-old man was injured after a lightning strike, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.
The National Weather Service had predicted a chance of thunderstorms around Southern California on Sunday, and lightning was also being blamed for a power outage affecting about 300 customers in Redondo Beach, some 12 miles (19 km) south of Venice.
Lightning injuries or fatalities can occur during a direct strike or after a current is passed through the ground or jumps from a taller object, such as a tree, according to the National Weather Service.
Symptoms can range from cardiac arrest and injury to the nervous system to muscle soreness, headache, and confusion.