LOCAL L.A. Now

Fierce lightning storm hits L.A. beach without warning, witnesses say

'It was scary,' witness says of lightning storm

The summer storm that struck Venice beach and other parts of the L.A. coast Sunday took many beach-goers by surprise.

The possibility of thunderstorms and lightning had been in the forecast, but conditions were also muggy and hot, bringing many to the beach.

At 1:38 p.m., the National Weather Service put out a bulletin warning of a storm that could produce heavy winds, thunder and "deadly lightning." An hour later, it recommended people stay indoors in the Venice area if they hear lightning.

Saida Rodriguez, 70, was just north of the Venice Pier when she saw a lightning bolt strike and then heard loud explosions like gunshots.

"It got cloudy ... All of a sudden I see this lightning," the Camarillo resident said. "It was scary."

The lightning struck at least nine people and ignited brush fires in various parts of Southern California on Sunday afternoon, officials said.

Danielle Real, 15, and Paige Banaga, 13, said they were swimming off Fleet Street at Venice Beach when they heard an explosion and felt the water churn.

"We felt the thunder and it shook us," Real said. "It scared us. There was no warning at all," she said.

They swam to the shore, and saw people screaming and whistling for lifeguards as a man lay in the shore break.

"He just looked purple," Banaga recalled. A man on the beach, a doctor, began administering CPR to the victim, Real said. "His eyes were closed. He wasn't responding. He was out of it"

Lifeguards came and took over the CPR, then a red ambulance arrived, and firefighters worked on the victim and whisked him away, the witnesses said.

About 30 minutes before the thunder, the two girls said they saw lightning far south by LAX. But they never thought it would stride by them.

One victim was described by the Los Angeles Fire Department to be in "grave" condition and a second person was listed in critical condition. One of the victims was a 15-year-old, according to the LAFD.

The conditions of the other victims was not immediately known. But footage from various social media found several victims sitting up and being assessed by paramedics. The LAFD transported nine people to local hospitals.

On Catalina Island, lightning struck a man and ignited several brush fires, authorities said.

The unidentified 57-year-old man did not suffer life-threatening injuries in the strike and was listed in stable condition, said Sgt. Robert Berardi of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Roger Davis was inside his home on Ocean Front Walk near Driftwood when he heard the explosions. "The whole place shook," he said. He ran outside. His neighbor, a doctor, was giving CPR to a victim, Davis said.

He said firefighters set up a triage area on the south end of the parking lot down from the Venice Pier. He said he saw them treat two victims then take them away in ambulances.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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