split image of Roy C Sullivan and Lightning

The thought of being struck by lightning won’t appeal to many people, but unfortunately for Roy C. Sullivan (USA), it happened to him a whopping seven times.

And amazingly, he survived every single strike - each of which contained several million volts of electricity.

Roy, an ex-park ranger from Virginia, set a record for the most lightning strikes survived – and there’s probably no one in a hurry to break this one!

His first unfortunate encounter with electrostatic discharge came in April 1942.

He was working as a ranger at Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains and was hit in the right leg by a direct bolt while fleeing a watchtower that had been set ablaze – you guessed it - after being hit by lightning.

Roy was left with scorch marks on his leg and lost the nail on his big toe as a result.

The terrifying encounter would be enough to keep some people indoors for the rest of their lives, but unfortunately for Roy, it was the first of many times he’d find himself in such a predicament.

Roy was struck by lightning so many times he eventually earned the nickname “Spark Ranger”.

The next incident came in July 1969, when Roy was knocked unconscious and left with burned eyebrows and a destroyed wristwatch after being struck while driving his truck.

In July 1970, he was struck while in his garden and his left shoulder was seared, and in April 1972, a lightning strike set his hair on fire while he was in a guardhouse at work.

Roy C Sullivan in uniform holding his hat

Believe it or not, his hair was set on fire again when he was struck in August 1973 while in his vehicle. His legs were also seared.

If that wasn’t enough, poor Roy injured his ankle and burned his hair again when lightning got him on yet another occasion during a walk in June 1976.

And finally, Roy’s chest and stomach were burned when he was struck during a fishing trip on a boat in June 1977.

Thankfully, Roy’s relationship with lightning appeared to end then.

He wasn’t struck again before he died in 1983 at the age of 71.

Interestingly, Roy’s wife was also struck by lightning once while hanging out the washing in their back yard. And although he was there helping her, he managed to escape it that time.

The chances of being struck just once in an 80-year lifespan are around 1 in 10,000, with the odds of being struck multiple times even less.

And it turns out that men are actually four times more likely than females to be struck by lightning, but that doesn’t make what happened to Roy any less surprising.

lightning strikes at night

How to avoid being struck by lightning

Of course, the easiest way to avoid being struck by lightning is staying indoors. But given that about one-third of lightning injuries occur indoors, it seems that’s not a fool-proof plan.

Your hair standing on end is often a sign that lightning is about to strike. If that happens to you, the first thing you should do is get as far away as you can from any nearby trees.

Even if the lightning strikes the tree instead of you, the charge will shoot up through your feet as it dissipates into the ground.

The next thing to do is make yourself as small as possible. If you can, crouch down low with the balls of your feet on the ground and your heels together.

Lying down is a bad idea, because that gives you a larger surface area in contact with the ground, while crouching like this will minimize the amount.

It might also be a good idea to put your hands over your ears, because lightning is very loud.

Good luck out there! 

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