Authorities say a lightning strike at a Gulf Coast beach in Florida has left eight people hurt, one of them critically. Clearwater Deputy Fire Chief Marvin Pettingill told local media outlets that the lightning strike occurred at Clearwater Beach about 12:45pm Sunday after lifeguards had left their towers because of bad weather, per the AP. The reports say the man in critical condition—said to be in his 40s, Fox News reports—suffered cardiac arrest, and seven others nearby were injured, at least one with burns. Authorities say five were taken to hospitals and that three refused treatment. Witnesses told the news outlets that people were moving off the beach when the lightning struck.
"It was this big strike. This dude, he got struck by lightning and he fell," one witness tells ABC Action News. "The one gentleman, his whole shirt was burned," another witness tells Bay News 9. "There was actually a hole in his shirt where the lightning struck." The incident took place just 15 minutes or so after the lifeguards had left their posts due to inclement weather, a Clearwater official tells Fox. The reports say some people at a nearby restaurant dragged the injured indoors as rain poured down and began administering first aid. The injured weren't immediately identified. "Beachgoers should take cover and go to a safe place when lightning and thunder are present," Clearwater Fire & Rescue tells ABC. "As a reminder, [we use] the phrase: when you hear the roar, go [indoors]." (Read more Florida stories.)