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Lightning strike survivor remembers 'terrible smell' in storm season warning to others

Anna Hartley, Saturday December 23, 2017 - 10:53 EDT
Audience submitted image
Far north Queensland man Sol Daley is terrified of storms after being struck by lightning in 2016. - Audience submitted

As the summer storm season intensifies around the country, one far north Queensland man is warning Australians about the potentially deadly risk of lightning.

After being struck himself last year, Innisfail resident Sol Daley is sharing his struggle in the hopes it will make people more aware.

It may come as a surprise to many to learn that five to 10 people are killed by lightning strikes in Australia each year, while more than 100 are seriously injured.

In Mr Daley's case, it was a stormy afternoon in February 2016 when he became one of those statistics.

"We were sitting on the front verandah with a couple of drinks," he said.

"It was raining and the lighting was getting pretty ferocious and [my wife] was in the yard moving pot plants and I said, 'Get out of the rain'.

"She stepped onto the verandah [and] next thing I know, I had been hit by the lighting."

When Jennifer Joyce saw her husband struck just metres in front of her, she was worried he had been killed.

"The kids were in the house screaming, it was just terrible," she said.

"As I turned around, I could see the blue finger of the electricity going into Sol's arm. I was trying to get him to move but he was stunned."

The couple said the strike was so loud they were temporarily deafened.

"I was in a lot of pain," Mr Daley added.

"All I remember is the terrible noise and the terrible smell. It was flesh and the burnt hairs that burnt off my arm.

"I felt like there was someone inside my chest trying to kick out."

Did not want to 'make a fuss'

Initially after the accident Mr Daley did not want to call triple-0 — until his condition began to deteriorate.

"As I was looking at Sol, I could see red lines across his chest and they were getting brighter," Ms Joyce said.

"That's when he said he was struggling to breathe."

They called the ambulance and Mr Daley was taken to Innisfail Hospital where his heart was monitored for 24 hours.

"Then I was sent home and I didn't feel too bad that night. It was the next morning when I woke up it became really scary," he said.

"I knew what I wanted to say in my mind but the words wouldn't come out, they were all jumbled and I thought I had a stroke."

Ms Joyce sat her husband up and he began shaking uncontrollably — the first time he experienced what his family would later call the 'electric boogaloo'.

While many dubbed his survival a miracle, Mr Daley said the months following the freak incident had been tough.

"He couldn't speak for quite a while," his wife said.

"The doctors said having that amount of voltage running through your whole body, it's like everything stops and starts."

Lightning not only potentially deadly risk

Bureau of Meteorology meteorologist Sean Fitzgerald said all storms had the chance of being deadly.

"All storms are electrified and at that point there is a chance of cloud to ground lightning," he said.

"The severity of the storm affects the likelihood of lightning [so] you should treat any storm as potentially dangerous and act accordingly."

He reminded Australians that lightning is not the only danger during storm season.

"The ," he said.

"We've got the concern of high rainfall, large hail, and strong winds so it's good to remember those things can also be potentially dangerous."

Mr Fitzgerald said the best way to stay safe from all the dangers storm season brings is to remain informed.

Earlier this year the Bureau of Meteorology released a .

"We've been using it for a while and it's nice [and] it's available to the public," Mr Fitzgerald said.

"The and the lightning tracker are both two great things that can keep you safe during storm season."

First of many 'near-death' experiences

Mr Daley said he was known by his children as 'the man with nine lives'.

He said the lightning strike was just one of multiple serious 'near-death' experiences he had experienced throughout his life.

"I've survived several things where I probably shouldn't be here," Mr Daley said.

"I broke my neck in a mining accident in 1991 and I nearly drowned.

"I survived a car accident in 2001 where I shattered a vertebra and broke my neck again and had to learn to walk again."

Recovery an unknown road

Mr Daley said many people were not aware of what the recovery was like for those struck by lightning.

"I still don't have the concentration I did before and I can't retain information as well," he said.

"I used to be bad with names and now I'm bad with faces — [and] I am terrified on storms now.

"I'll close the curtain because it gets a bit too much [but] I'm learning to live with that."

One of the major health scares for the far north Queensland man came when his adrenal glands shut down seven months after the lightning strike.

"I had to be put into hospital and injected with a big dose of steroids and they had to have a doctor on hand in case I went into cardiac arrest, but I didn't, and my adrenal glands started working again," he said.

"I asked what else might happen and they said they don't know but a lot could have been lost that day and I feel blessed to be here."


© ABC 2017

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