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Sierra Lightning Strike Kills Fresno Hiker Near John Muir Trail

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — A hiker was fatally struck by lightning in the Northern California mountains as he tried to take cover during a storm, authorities said.

Nicholas Torchia, 37, of Fresno was electrocuted Friday afternoon in a remote area near the John Muir Trail in the central Sierra Nevada east of Forest Lake the Fresno Bee reported Monday.

"Torchia took cover by leaning against a tree," Fresno County sheriff's spokesman Tony Botti said. "A tree which was then struck by a lightning bolt. Torchia fell to the ground. His fellow hikers came to check on him and he told them he didn't feel well and then became unconscious."

A doctor and a nurse on the trail administered CPR to Torchia for three hours but he died, Botti said. No one else was injured.

Fatalities from lightning strikes are rare. There have been 14 reported deaths in California between 1950 and this April, according to the storm events database of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Centers for Environmental Information.

Lt. Kathy Curtice, in charge of the sheriff's Search and Rescue team, said she can't recall anyone else ever being struck by lightning in Fresno County. She told the Bee that people caught in a thunderstorm should drop down to lower ground and stay away from objects that can conduct electricity.


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