HCFR: Child critically injured in lightning strike at Riverview park

A child has been rushed to the hospital after being struck by lightning near a boat ramp at a Hillsborough County Park Thursday afternoon, according to Hillsborough County Fire Rescue. 

"Something told me to look up, and when I did, I mean, it was so fast, so quick. It was just unbelievable," said Debbie Daniels.

Daniels said she was sitting near the Williams Park Boat Ramp in Riverview when she saw a flash of lightning over the water. She said she immediately knew someone on-board had been struck, people started to panic, and a woman was yelling for help.

"There was somebody sitting straddling him and pushing and pushing and pushing and trying to get his heart started," Daniels said. "And I hit my knees and started praying and crying and oh, my god, it was terrible."

Hillsborough County fire crews said the victim was rushed to the hospital in critical condition. Daniels said at the time of the tragedy, it was not even raining at the boat ramp.

"It was beautiful, but you could hear the thunder and see the lightning in spots," she said.

That is the thing with lightning; the skies do not have to be dark and gloomy.

"Lightning can strike seven to 10 miles away from the parent thunderstorm," explained FOX 13 Chief Meteorologist Paul Dellegato.  "So even though you see a thunderstorm in the distance, if you hear thunder technically you’re in danger of being hit."

Florida ranks first in the country for lightning strikes. The odds of being struck by a bolt in a given year are less than one-in-a-million, and almost 90% of victims survive. Still, lightning kills around 20 people each year in the U.S. and hundreds more are injured.

Experts said the last place you want to be when thunder roars is under a tree or out in the open. The safest place is inside a structure with plumbing, or a vehicle with a metal roof.