Florida man who was among 8 injured in weekend lightning strike at beach dies

Garry L. Perks, 32, of New Port Richey, went into cardiac arrest after being directly struck by lightning in Clearwater Beach on Sunday, police said.

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By Phil Helsel

A Florida man who was struck by lightning at Clearwater Beach on Sunday has died, police said Wednesday.

Garry L. Perks, 32, of New Port Richey, was hit at Clearwater Beach, which is on the western part of the state near Tampa, on Sunday afternoon, and went into cardiac arrest.

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Seven others who were nearby were injured by the strike, which occurred around 12:45 p.m., and five of those injured were taken to hospitals for treatment, the city of Clearwater said at the time. Three others declined treatment.

The city said at the time that the person who was directly struck by lightning went into cardiac arrest and was in critical condition.

Clearwater police Lt. Michael Walek on Wednesday identified that person as Perks.

About 12 minutes before the 911 call for a lightning strike came in that day, Clearwater Beach lifeguards left their towers because of the weather, according to the city statement.

A witness told NBC affiliate WFLA that people were moving off the beach when the strike occurred and said, "It sounded like a bomb had gone off."

The National Weather Service says on its website that so far this year, nine people in the United States have been killed in lightning strikes, including a 45-year-old man who was struck in Ormond Beach, Florida, in June. It does not appear that the Clearwater incident is on that list.

Last year, 20 people died from lightning across the country, including seven in Florida, according to the agency. In 2017, there were 16 deaths attributed to lightning.