Witnesses describe 'complete chaos' after Clearwater Beach lightning strike

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Victims of a lightning strike Sunday on Clearwater Beach are recovering Monday. One man, who took a direct hit, is in critical condition according to Clearwater officials.

A witness said the man and his family were walking away from the beach to escape the rain when he was struck.

City officials say lifeguards left their towers due to bad weather at about 12:30 p.m. The 911 call came in at 12:42. Lifeguards are reminding beachgoers: When thunder roars, go indoors.

“They don’t understand the hazard and the risk of lightning in Florida,” Donovan Burns, with the city of Clearwater, said. “If you hear it, there’s a chance you can get struck by lightning. That’s the risk in Florida. You don’t have to be under the storm.”

Police say the eight who felt the impact of the strike were in the beach area behind Frenchy's Rockaway Grill.

“The people right next to the patio were just falling over for different reasons. One had a seizure. One was burnt. One had a heart attack. Some of the jet ski guys felt like they got hit in the back of the head with a baseball bat,” witness Julie O'Neal told FOX 13 News.

Officials say a rental booth worker who was trying to help clear the beach was also impacted by the strike.