When Your Number Is Up

September 6, 2013

All Posts, News

An as yet unnamed, 59-year-old motorcyclist was struck by lightening yesterday morning during a downpour on Interstate 5 near Chehalis, Washington south of Tacoma.

“I was behind him in my truck, the lightning came down and lit up his helmet,” a witness and good Samaritan named Martin Zapalac told Sharyn L. Decker of the Lewis County Sirens.


Zapalac told the Seattle Times that he and his wife saw the rider’s helmet “glow,” felt the sonic boom and watched the rider slow down and pull right onto the shoulder where he collapsed sideways into a roadside barrier. When the couple pulled over to offer assistance the biker couldn’t hear. When he pulled off his helmet (police photo above) Zapalac saw the rider’s hair was singed and his ear was burned. His first words were “Why am I stopped here/”

The rider quickly regained his composure and rode about four miles to the next freeway exit. The Zapalacs followed him and after he parked his motorcycle in a convenience store parking lot the Zapalacs called police. “He’s conscious. He’s breathing okay but he’s almost ready to pass out. He is not steady on his feet at all,” Mrs. Zapalac told the emergency operator.

Kevin Curfman, a Captain with the Chehalis Fire Department, told the Longview Daily News, ““He was jovial with us. Talking with us. He was very much with it. He was a little in disbelief. He said he’d ridden a million miles on a motorcycle and had never been hit.” Curfman speculated that the lightning struck an antenna on the bike and travelled to the rider’s helmet through the wiring harness. Medics determined the rider had suffered minor burns and hearing loss. The rider walked into the ambulance and out again to try to arrange for somebody to tow his bike.

Condition Downgraded

Paramedics transported him to Providence Hospital in Centralia for observation. He was later transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle where his condition was initially reported as satisfactory.

This morning Harborview downgraded the man’s condition to serious and transferred him to the intensive care unit. A hospital spokesman said the man remains “conscious and awake.”



14 Responses to “When Your Number Is Up”

  1. stroker Says:

    @Jim666: yeah, seriously DAMN!

    Canada 1976. Canadian Rt 1. It had been raining steady since Kenora.
    I was past Thunder Bay (appropriately) and headed for Nipigon. The rain was relentless. My gloves were soaked thru! My 2pc. plastic emergency rain gear was not doing much to keep me dry. Crotch was developing a diaper rash, and I wasn’t wearing one! I felt the hair all over my body start a creepy-crawly feeling. It was trying to stand up I guess, but was too wet. At a slight rise in the road, a bolt of lightening hit a tree about 50 ft. off to my left. Don’t know if some residual juice hit me or not, but I was virtually paralyzed for a few seconds. Couldn’t breathe. my panhead coughed and sputtered. I knew what had happened, but didn’t know what was going to happen next, cuz I thought I’d been hit. Snapped outta it fairly quick, but immediately got the shakes, and pulled over to the side of the road for a while, checking to see if I’d shit myself. I remember the ozone smell to this day. Woke my ass up pretty good I can tell ya!
    Hunkered along playing turtle after that for a while, til I rode out of the storm. Thank you Jesus, Thank You Lord!

  2. Jim666 Says:

    He,s not on a bike but Damn !!!!


  3. YYZ Skinhead Says:

    Sigh…I would gladly endure getting zapped by lightning IF IT MEANT IT WOULD FUCKING RAIN. I gotta go downtown and try to peddle tee shirts to raise funds for my caretaker (who wasn’t struck by lightning but had a severe allergic reaction and got a fuckacious ambulance bill). The prediction is 94 degrees and sunny. I hope it isn’t humid as well so I shan’t be tempted to kick every random human within boot range.

    YYZ Skinhead

  4. Freeman Says:

    Closest i got to one was a couple of years back, up north in the laurentians, came off the 117 to the principal road, lightning struck an electrical transformer on a post about 100 feet in front of me, sparks flew everywhere, high tension wires dropped on the road, i was too close to brake, i ran over them, stopped about a 150 feet passed it and looked back and realized that its the one thing hollywood got right, when a high tension wire is cut off it scurries on the ground like a fucking snake!

    One of the scariest moment i ever had riding.

  5. One Eye Says:

    In 2006, a buddy and I rode to the Smoke Out in Salisbury, NC. We were supposed to leave on the Thursday, but tornadoes were ripping through the part of Ohio we needed to pass, so we left on the Friday morning. It started raining in Toledo and shit on us all the way to Salisbury. We would receive some brief respites for 10 or 15 minutes and when the rain resumed it would come down twice as hard.
    We entered Statesville and all hell broke loose; thunder and lightning on a Biblical epic scale and we had to run a gauntlet of trees. Big, tall trees and all the while an article I had read concerning a biker who got hit by lightning in Colorado flashed through my head. There was nowhere to stop, unless we were going to stand under a tree. I’ll admit I was very relieved when we exited that road.

  6. Latigo Morgan Says:

    Rode from Las Cruces, NM to Albuquerque a couple weekends ago. I’d rode the bike down to visit my daughters and then came home. Thunderstorms were brewing, but I was able to outrun them. At least, until I stopped for gas and took off again. A few miles out of Truth or Consequences, I lost power and couldn’t go faster than 45 mph. Then the rainstorm caught up with me. Lightening and then a downpour. No choice but to try to ride it out until I could not see more than 5 ft. in front of me and water was pouring in my eyes. Made it to an overpass and waited out the worst of it.

    Then rode the rest of the way from overpass to overpass, with that dang storm on taking the same track as I did. Somewhere near Socorro it petered out to a drizzle and then eventually stopped. My 3-1/2 hour ride turned into an 8 hr. ride with me hunched over, holding the choke wide open to get the most speed I could.

    Some lightening strikes sounded dang close, but I didn’t get hit like that guy did. It would sure be a great story to be able to tell, though.

    For my ride, turns out the accelerator pump needs rebuilt. I figure I’ll just rebuild the whole carb with performance parts, since I’ll be taking it apart, anyway.

  7. Snow Says:

    I remember hearing about a rider in Texas getting hit by lighting while riding on the interstate, fried him then and there.

  8. Grumbler Says:

    Sure would’ve been ironic if he had been riding a BSA A65L Lightning.

  9. CN Says:

    It’s impossible to ride in the south east in the summer and not see rain or worse every afternoon, just how it is. You either ride it out or seek shelter but June-September its how it shakes out. I’ve got a brand spanking new rain suit in my hard bags that I’ve never used because you get just as wet sweating with the thing on as you do not wearing it. I guess it would be nice if everyday it only rained while I was asleep, hell, lots of shit would be nice. But when the shit gets nasty I tend to think about those I know who’d kill to be riding free in any weather but can’t due to the police state war on our way of life. Thinking about that usually cures whatever ails me. So if the Biker didn’t have an antenna he’d of been okay? I learn something new everyday (which is cool cause I forget about 50 other things). Regards Rebel.

  10. WARTHOG Says:

    Damn it! This is the link I wanted:


    Looks like we lost the edit buttons…or at least I did. Sorry folks.




  11. WARTHOG Says:

    Just one more reason NOT to wear a helmet. Poor fucker. The odds of getting hit…?





  12. Phuquehed Says:

    Fuck the lightning, rain, sleet, hail, bugs, smoke from cars/diesel, and shitty drivers in cages. If I were to worry about any of it the riding wouldn’t be fun anymore and I’d be better off locking myself in my room and never coming out. Hell, I’d consider getting hit by lightning on a bike as a damned cool thing…like getting a medal of honor or something, heh. I mean, how often does it actually happen on a small, moving vehicle? I’d brag like a son of a bitch about it!

  13. ol'goat Says:

    police, ambulances, doctors, I bet he gets a bill for $10,000 and they probably didn’t do a damn thing

  14. Alice Carbone Says:

    Wild. Love your news and had not listen to that song in quite a while.
    Still, I would ride and risk the lightening :-)

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