Sheriff’s Office: Lightning strike kills Fresno man hiking John Muir Trail


LAKESHORE, Calif. (KTXL) — A Fresno man died after being struck by lightning while hiking on the John Muir Trail last Friday.

The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office said 37-year-old Nicholas Torchia of Fresno was hiking in the area of Salle Keys Cutoff near Muir Trail Ranch around 2 p.m. when a thunderstorm rolled in.

Sheriff’s officials said Torchia took cover from the storm by leaning against a tree.

The tree was then struck by a lightning bolt and Torchia fell to the ground.

Hikers with Torchia checked on his condition after the lightning hit and Torchia said he didn’t feel well before falling unconscious, according to officials.

Officials said two medically-trained hikers in the area tried to help revive Torchia by giving him CPR for three hours, but he died from his injuries.

When the sheriff’s office was notified of Torchia’s death, they worked with the California Highway Patrol to land at Blayney Meadows to recover his body.

Weather conditions delayed the transport until 6 p.m.

Torchia was then flown to Fresno where the county coroner ruled his death to be “electrocution caused by lightning,” according to the release.

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 Fresno Bee that people caught in a thunderstorm should drop down to lower ground and stay away from objects that can conduct electricity.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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