A Monterey County father and his two children are recovering from being struck by lightning on a Labor Day backpacking trip to Sequoia National Park.
Chris Lovera and his two children, Aidan, 12, and Nadia, 9, were caught in a storm at Jennie Lake during their first family backpacking trip, the Monterey Herald reported. The Pacific Grove family just hiked six miles on a trail when it began to pour, and Lovera stopped to take a short video of the experience and post it to Facebook.
“We picked a good weekend to come backpacking, didn’t we?” Lovera, 51, asked his children, before flipping the camera to show their faces huddled under a tree.
“What are these the faces of?” he says. “I don’t know... but they’re not the faces of happy campers or happy backpackers, right?”
Moments later, a lightning bolt strikes the tree they sat under. The three were hit by the bolt.
Witnesses told the three it looked like the electricity blew them up, and their bodies were “flying,” Lovera said in a Facebook post.
Lovera and his two children all woke up at different times.
“I thought he was dead ‘cause I was just screaming at him, and I couldn’t see him breathing or moving,” Aidan told CBS SF Bay Area.
“I got really scared,” Nadia said in the interview.
Lovera woke to his children screaming “Daddy, Daddy!” and blood running down his face.
The father suffered first- and second-degree burns on his back, arm pit and down his arm. In photos posted to social media, the burn on Lovera’s back is in the pattern of the lightning strike. Lovera was paralyzed for a few hours. His skin was black and his clothes burned off his body.
Nadia suffered burns to her arm and thighs and also suffered partial paralysis, the Herald reported.
Aidan’s injuries were the worst, Lovera said. Aidan’s eardrum was blown out, he was wounded him from the top of his skull to his jaw line and his legs were burned.
Luckily, there were plenty of campers at Jennie Lake who rushed to the Lovera family’s aid and called for emergency services. Soon, the three were riding in a California Highway Patrol helicopter and on their way to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno.
“I am most certainly alive, Aidan and Nadia as well, because of the common and selfless bravery of so many wonderful people,” Lovera said in a Facebook post. “I was in such a terrible state of shock and trauma. It was because of an incredible mobilization of effort that I can post this.”
As the three recover, Lovera hopes to return soon to his post as a senior research technician for the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.
“Honestly, I’m trying to acknowledge the fatigue I’m experiencing, but the thing I think about most is the outpouring of concern,” Lovera told the Herald.
“I’m grateful, of course, that my children and I are alive,” Lovera said. “Really, what I come away with is just the gratitude I have for this set of people who were so selfless and willing to go out in this storm – it was still lightning and raining, and they went out into this and helped us selflessly. And it’s just been overwhelming in a good way to see so many people in our community be willing to give. People are innately good at heart.”
Brianna Calix: 559-441-6166, @BriannaCalix