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Norwich man says he was hit by lightning while filming Tuesday rainstorm

September 20, 2018

Westerly — A Norwich man who caught himself on video getting hit by lightning wants to spread the lesson he learned Tuesday: go inside during thunderstorms.

Erik Clement lives part-time in Norwich and spends weekdays in Westerly, where he manages several small motels on Misquamicut Beach. He was filming Tuesday’s rainstorm from the porch of one of those motels on the western end of Winnapaug Pond about 2:45 p.m., when he thinks a bolt of lightning hit the pond and the electrical energy entered his body via the ground through a metal doorknob he was touching.

“I could see the storm coming across the pond ... from a distance,” Clement said. “The storm itself was pretty vivid and stirring in the distance. It just creeped out of nowhere.”

He was alone; his only motel guests were staying across the street.

“I said a couple bad words,” Clement said.

In his video of the storm, a lightning strike lights up the screen, and Clement yells, his smartphone falling to the ground. He called 911, and Westerly firefighters, police and emergency medical responders came to the motel, checked his heart rate and stayed with him until they were sure he didn’t need hospitalization.

His only lingering symptom is numbness in his left arm.

“They said that it was a miracle that I wasn’t burned or killed,” Clement said. “I just went back in to lay down and count my blessings. As soon as they left, I closed the door ... I pulled my rosary out and said a prayer.” 

Now, having learned a lesson both spiritual and meteorological, he is warning people to stay indoors during storms. He said he told his story to several Rhode Island television news outlets and newspapers Wednesday.

“I feel like people (should) know, when there’s a thunderstorm, come inside,” he said. “It’s not worth the pictures or the videos. You can just watch it on TV later.”

His friends and family members all have marveled at his luck and advised him to buy a lottery ticket, which he did Wednesday.

“I’m not expecting to win,” he said. “But then again, who expects to get struck by lightning?”

m.shanahan@theday.com

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