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.
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.”