Traffic was stopped for over an hour on I-95 near Daytona Beach, Florida this past Sunday. The reason? A man driving a motorcycle was struck by lightning, causing his helmet to shatter and sending him careening off the road.
The motorcyclist was Benjamin Austin Lee, 45. The incident happened around 3 pm as he was driving at mile marker 271, and motorists in cars behind him – who were trapped in gridlocked traffic while police and paramedics responded to the scene – said they saw the lightning, but never imagined someone actually got hit by it.
GoFundMe Page Set Up For Lee
A close friend and colleague Kimberly Schultz has set up a GoFundMe page for the funeral and memorial expenses that Lee’s family will incur in the coming weeks. In it, she describes Lee as adventurous, kind, and hard working. She explained everyone wanted to be around him, and that his personality was infectious.
The GoFundMe page has reached nearly its goal of $5,000 in seven days, with many comments sharing stories from Lee’s life, friends describing how good he was to them, and pictures of their happier times with Lee. One friend shared a picture Lee took of them both on the beach, with the wish that he “fly high on that Harley in Heaven”. Yet another expressed just how good Lee was to her and her son, and that their four years of friendship would never be enough.
What Happened To Lee?
This is actually the 12thmotorcycle-related lightning fatality since 2006 in the US alone, a surprising number. The reason is that if lightning hits a car, it will bend around the metal frame. However, motorcycles don’t have that metal protection, as Lee’s helmet shows. Despite Florida having the highest rate of lightning anywhere in the US, first responders said they had never seen damage to a motorcycle helmet like Lee’s had. The foam inside was disintegrated, and one long gouge was right at the top, appearing that the lightning hit him from directly above.
Lee is only the second death this year from lightning, though since 2006 in the US lightning has killed almost 400 people. The best protection from lightning strikes? Be inside during a storm, officials say. If that isn’t possible, go somewhere with lots of tall buildings or trees, and take cover. You can’t outrun lightning that is traveling at 300,000 miles per hour.