A North Carolina motorcyclist died Sunday afternoon when he was struck by a lightning bolt and then crashed on a Florida Highway.
The 45-year-old man from Charlotte, N.C., who has been identified as Benjamin Austin Lee, according to the Palm Beach Post, was hit just before 3 p.m. At the time, he was driving on I-95 in Volusia County, Fla., about 50 miles from Orlando, the Florida Highway Patrol said in a statement Sunday.
According to an off-duty Virginia state trooper who witnessed the strike, the lightning bolt’s impact caused the motorcyclist to veer off the road. The 2018 motorcycle flipped, throwing the driver from bike, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
“Lightning hit him. He went flying off his bike,” WKMG News 6 reported an eyewitness who called 911 told the dispatcher.
Lt. Kim Montes, public affairs officer for the Florida Highway Patrol, told The Post that the traffic homicide investigator said "he has never seen anything like this” in his 20 years responding to fatal crashes.
A photo posted on the agency’s official Twitter page showed the biker’s shattered helmet with cracks and burns from the bolt.
It’s unclear whether the cause of death was the lightning strike or the subsequent crash.
Since 2016, there have been 11 motorcycle-related lightning deaths, John Jensenius of the National Lightning Safety Council said, although only 10 percent of people struck by lightning are killed. (In several of the 10 cases, Jensenius noted that the rider was not on the bike when he or she was struck.)
Over the last three decades, the United States has averaged 43 lightning deaths annually, according to the National Weather Service’s Storm Data. More recently, since 2009, the average has dropped to 27, making the odds of being struck in a given year 1 in more than 1.2 million.