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Long Island Lightning Strike Victim: ‘They Thought I Was Dead’

Nicole Burke Tells Of Near-Death Experience -- Safe And Sound From Home
Nicole Burke (credit: CBS 2)

Nicole Burke (credit: CBS 2)

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PATCHOGUE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — She is a rare survivor. She’s a Long Island teenager who was barely hurt after being hit by a jolt from the sky.

She was struck by lightning during violent weekend storms, but returned home on Tuesday.

“The doctors said getting hit by lightning like that, you shouldn’t be alive,” Nicole Burke told CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff.

Burke is beyond one in a million. She was directly struck by lightning, but is somehow alive to tell her incredible story.

“It hit me here and went through my arm, out my hand and onto the car,” Burke said.

The incredible incident happened Sunday at Hecksher State Park. The Burke family was playing Frisbee when the sky darkened and storms rolled across the Tri-State Area. They loaded into the car to watch nature’s fury over the Great South Bay. When Nicole dashed out of the car to jump in the back seat, lightning struck.

“The sound was like a stick of dynamite, an M80, fireworks and a flash of light. I looked and she was on the ground,” said Tim Burke, Nicole’s father.

“They thought I was dead,” Nicole added.

Nicole blacked out. Her father performed CPR and the family prayed. When she came to, the 18-year-old college student couldn’t move, having taken a hit that could power a light bulb for months.

“I could hear what they were saying, but I couldn’t react,” she said.

Rushed to Stony Brook University Hospital, Nicole, incredibly, only suffered minor burns, a shattered ear drum and some singed hair.

The odds of being struck by lightning are about 1 in 700,000, experts say, but surviving a direct hit is far more rare. Nicole was wet from rain and doctors said that helped.

“It could have chosen different pathways. If it chose a pathway through her heart or her head it could have been a whole different story,” said Stony Brook’s Dr. Steve Sandoval.

“I know when I’m older and my kids’ complain about having scraped their knee I’ll say, ‘well I got hit by lightning!”

There was only a tiny ping on the car from the jolt, but the engine died. Nicole, however, said she is feeling blessed.

About 50 people are killed in the U.S. every year from lightning strikes, experts said. Their best is the most obvious one: during a severe storm, go indoors.

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