Lightning strike witnesses give first-hand accounts

VENICE, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Witnesses said they felt the electricity as it surged through the water after lightning struck Venice Beach Sunday, killing a 20-year-old man and critically injuring another.

Firefighters said a bolt of lightning hit the water and the electrical current then traveled, hitting swimmers and surfers near the 3500 block of Ocean Front Walk around 2:30 p.m.

Thirteen people, including a 15-year-old, were examined at the scene, and eight patients were hospitalized after being struck near the Driftwood lifeguard tower, city fire spokeswoman Katherine Main said.

Those who were at the scene and saw the lightning strike say it was a horrifying experience. Others said they felt the electricity as it surged through the water.

"Out of nowhere, we heard like a thunderstorm," witness Jason Alas said. "It was like really, really loud."

Stuart Acher was struck by lightning while playing volleyball.

"We went about our game and then all of a sudden, there was a big flash of light and a boom, and it felt like someone punched me in the back of my head," Acher said. "It went down my whole side of my right body, and my calves sort of locked up, and I fell over. And I looked up and everybody else was, you know, falling over."

Acher was treated by paramedics at the scene and released. He felt all right and went back to playing volleyball.

A man, who only wanted to be identified as Paul, was knocked unconscious by the lightning strike. He left St. John's Health Center Sunday night after being treated and thanks his partner, Jose Mendoza, and another friend for saving his life.

"I was in the water, I was boogie boarding and the next thing I know I was trying to get my head above the water for air," Paul said.

Watch Eyewitness News reporter Amy Powell's report above.

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