SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) _ A man killed by a bolt of lightning during a Memorial Day boating excursion did not issue a challenge to the heavens before he was struck, a witness to the man's death said.

According to some reports, Graves Thomas, a 40-year-old attorney, raised his arms in the air and said, ''Here I am,'' before he was struck.

''There was no challenge to the heavens,'' said Dan Russell Jr., one of the four people in the boat with Thomas when the lightning hit.

''He didn't even look up. He didn't throw his arms up in the air,'' he added.

Just before the lightning struck, Russell said, Thomas had been in the water on Lake Bisteneau, cleaning moss from the boat's propeller and checking its speedometer while waiting for another companion, Janet Westbrook, to ski.

Thomas had just climbed back in the boat, Russell said, when ''he stood up and said something to the effect of 'Hey, I'm back in now. We can go.'''

Russell speculated that the ''here I am'' misunderstanding started when a distraught member of the group described the accident to Bossier Parish sheriff's deputies.

During a memorial Mass Monday, the Rev. Murray Clayton of St. Joseph's Catholic Church spoke about the circumstances surrounding Thomas' death.

Russell said he and members of the ski party were so concerned about news accounts of the death that they stayed after the Mass to explain the circumstances to the family.

''They didn't believe it (the original account), but had seen so many news articles about it that they were upset they'd (the media) sensationalized it when it wasn't true,'' he said.