Mountie rescues couple from truck hit by lightning

I never thought that a lightning strike could be so dangerous in a vehicle. Luckily, as the driver attests, there was an officer who suddenly appeared at the window.

Officer describes saving couple from vehicle struck by lightning.

On Saturday, Al and Betty Perry were driving along Highway 14 near Tofield, Alberta when out of the sky came a massive bolt of lightning. It hit their silver Chevrolet pickup truck instantly filling the vehicle with smoke.

The airbags deployed and the metal body was rippled by the heat. Parts of the truck were completely melted. Al said he believed the electrical system inside the truck was destroyed as the doors and windows were locked and would not open.

The entire ordeal was captured by a security camera. The footage shows the truck come into view before the lightning bolt strikes, engulfing the vehicle in a fireball. Flames then shoot out of the back of the pickup. It is a freak occurrence also witnessed by an RCMP officer a few hundred metres away who just happened to be passing by.

The Mountie used his baton to smash out the window. He said he jumped back in case there was fire in the vehicle. When the smoke started to dissipate he was able to help the Perry’s out of the truck.

Doctors told the Perry’s the bolt doesn’t seem to have affected them in any physical way. Al believes the smoke could have killed them though and credited the officer from saving them from suffocating.

Follow the link above for the video. It’s a good story of someone being at the right place at just the right time. I never thought about lightning frying the electronics and locking you IN! Amazing it didn’t ignite the fuel.

Security camera captures lightning strike

Security camera captures lightning strike

  19 comments for “Mountie rescues couple from truck hit by lightning

  1. Dubious f
    June 10, 2014 at 8:30 PM

    More than the average good thinking people assume that car don’t get hit by lightning because if the isolation created by the rubber of tires. They will prevent a “grounding” of a lightning charge. Actually, lightning strikes when a negatively charged cloud or massive buildup of negative charge, is attracted to a positive buildup on the ground. When they touch, they exchange in a big way. Negative pole of a battery in a car is connected to the frame, thus the casing. It acts as a “faraday repellent “. So, pseudo-lightning seeking for a positive friend Will not hit on a car. Unless connections defective or the car sped trough a electrical path…

    • Brian Cooper
      June 10, 2014 at 9:33 PM

      I’m pretty sure that lightning is indifferent to the paltry 12 V floating potential difference created by a car battery.

    • 6ball
      June 10, 2014 at 11:08 PM

      I don’t know. Rubber is an insulator, but AIR is a pretty good insulator and the lightning is traveling through that.

    • June 11, 2014 at 12:52 AM

      I’ve got no idea what a ‘Faraday repellant’ might be but I’m very sure the 12v pd of a car battery whether +ve or -ve wrt ground will make very little difference to the Mv pd of a lightning strike.

      However, if you’re going to sit out in the open and get hit by lightning the inside of a car (a Faraday cage) is probably a ‘good’ place to be.

    • Rich
      June 11, 2014 at 5:19 AM

      I don’t think there is such a thing as “Faraday repellent” unless it gets rid of scientists. A Faraday cage certainly applies, though, in that it prevents the charge from entering the space inside. I’m not sure the connection of the negative pole of the battery has a lot to do with it, it’s more the enclosed metal ‘cage’ effect of the car’s body.

      • Curious
        June 23, 2014 at 5:58 PM

        That’s exactly how a faraday cage works.

    • Curious
      June 23, 2014 at 2:59 PM

      The battery in your car is grounded to the frame to prevent electrical shocks, damage to sensitive electronics, et cetera from the battery. It has nothing to do with lightning, nor would it remotely be able to prevent a lightning strike any more than rubber tires will prevent a sufficient current from grounding, which is a myth (obviously). Electricity can overcome just about any insulating medium or polarization under the right circumstances. This is why electronic components like diodes have a region called “breakdown voltage”. Normally diodes only allow currents with positive voltages to flow and will block currents with negative voltages (i.e. current running in the “wrong” direction), but sufficient negative voltage will overwhelm the diode and allow the current to flow in the “wrong” direction.

      This incident is also unique. Generally, your car is the safest place to be during a lightning strike (as opposed to being exposed outside). Most of the time your lights and instrument panel might flicker, but you and your car will escape largely unscathed. (My husband’s work vehicle (a mid-2000 Ford Crown Victoria) was struck twice in one day with no side-effects or damage.) In this particular incident, it seems several factors lined up in just the right way to cause both unusual physical and electrical damage to the vehicle. And, unfortunately, as most modern cars automatically lock once they reach a certain speed, with the loss of the electronics in the vehicle, the occupants were unable to unlock the doors via the electronic lock.

      That said, what I really would like to know is why the manual override for the locks in the driver’s door did not work. Most cars—I say most because I haven’t driven every car in the world—allow the driver to manually unlock their door by simply pulling on the inner door handle (though I once read this is also electronic in some BMWs). Some cars still have manual locks that the occupants can pull up. This is essential if your car goes into a body of water and loses power. Did they not have that option? Was there some sort of physical issue or did they panic? Curiouser and curiouser.

  2. Indrid Cole
    June 10, 2014 at 8:32 PM

    Weird, from the look of the sky it doesn’t even appear to be cloudy or rainy.

    • Rich
      June 11, 2014 at 5:27 AM

      It does, though; if you look at the opening of the video segment (“This was the scene captured by…”) you can clearly see low, overhanging rain clouds.

  3. eddi
    June 11, 2014 at 5:20 AM

    http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/bolt_blue.htm Hit by lightning with no thunderstorm around can happen. Or the camera footage got color-corrected to blue during processing.

  4. justin
    June 11, 2014 at 7:02 AM

    I believe the Faraday cage principal is sound to an extent. The thing I believe you need to take into account is the massive amount of energy the lighting is putting into the vehicle. In some cases it has blown/melted a hole straight through the contact point. Its still much safer because it will dissipate the charge over the entire vehicle. But with a sufficient amount of energy it can still get to the interior of the vehicle. Only so much electricity can go into a specific area before it can contain it no more, at which point it finds other avenues to move through.

  5. Bill D'Arcy
    June 11, 2014 at 7:47 AM

    So much for the idea that lightning hits the tallest thing in the area. The SUV was close to the roadside electricity poles, and maybe 50 yards from three flagpoles. But if you measure down from the top of the lightning path there wouldn’t be much difference in path length.

    Maybe electrostatic charge state at the “target” is the most important factor.

  6. June 11, 2014 at 2:30 PM

    I doubt the Faraday repellent concept is too relevant here. The charge buildup is indeed between the clouds and the ground… the car just happened to be in the way. And since there is enough of a potential difference to arc through the air, the insulation of the tires and the voltage of the battery doesn’t even factor into it.

    • Rich
      June 11, 2014 at 4:23 PM

      What *is* the faraday repellent concept? I googled it this morning and came up with nothing; now the one result I get links back to this article!

  7. Dubious f
    June 11, 2014 at 6:37 PM

    The “faraday repellent” is a conceptual image of a faraday cage, negatively charged to repel negatively charged bursts i.e. lightning. It is not a term that exists. Play on words to play on terms.
    Even in a charge buildup like lightning, will a negative charge avoid another negative charge (-12v of a car) ? If not, then maybe we should talk ampères….

    • Rich
      June 12, 2014 at 3:26 AM

      Well, there you go, thank you! I have learned something. At least now it’ll have two hits on Google.

    • Curious
      June 23, 2014 at 5:24 PM

      It also doesn’t exist. Polarity in an electrical circuit is a matter of which way the current is flowing or wants to flow, which in a simple DC circuit can be changed by switching the connections on the battery. In fact, grounding the battery to the car frame will not produce a negative voltage in the car frame; it will read positive. You would have to hook up the battery backwards to achieve a negative voltage, which I don’t recommend, given a battery and man electronic components only work one way. Though an electrical current running through a wire exhibits magnetic properties, hooking up the battery one way or another would not magically repell or attract lightning like a magnet. If anything, it would just encourage the lightning to flow through the circuit one way over another once it entered the circuit, though the circuit will likely fail under such a significant voltage and current.

  8. Curious
    June 23, 2014 at 5:44 PM

    given a battery and many^ electronic components only work one way.

    It’s also possible to have positively charged lightning strikes where the clouds are positive and the ground is negative, though they’re not as common. Again, it’s just a matter of which way the current flows in reference to ground (which is not always the Earth; sometimes it’s just a reference point).

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