SAN FRANCISCO — An Austrian tourist who was hiking with his girlfriend and a friend in a remote wilderness area of the Sierra Nevada was rescued after surviving a lightning strike, authorities in California said.
Mathias Steinhuber, 31, had major burns throughout his body and was struggling to walk when a helicopter crew rescued him Tuesday from the remote wilderness area near Donner Summit, the California Highway Patrol Valley Air Operations said.
Friend Carla Elvidge said she, Steinhuber and his girlfriend, Kathrin Klausner, were hiking from Donner Summit to Squaw Valley and that all are avid hikers.
Elvidge said the couple was visiting her in the Lake Tahoe area, in Truckee, California, and that there was no rain or lightning when they set off on their hike, though she could see clouds above Reno, some 50 miles away.
Steinhuber was hiking ahead of her and his girlfriend and had reached the top of Tinkers Knob when she heard a large crack and saw a white flash, she said.
"He was taking a picture and the next thing I know, I see this white flash, like an explosion," Elvidge said.
Steinhuber was thrown away and all his clothes and shoes were ripped off from his body. He had an entry wound on his hand and an exit wound on his foot, she said.
A second lighting bolt struck next to Klausner, who felt the electricity in her body, and the two decided to take shelter and call 911.
A helicopter landed on Tinker Knob, which is at an elevation of 8,949 feet, and dropped off a paramedic who tended to Steinhuber. He was taken to Tahoe Forest Hospital in Truckee and then flown to the University of California, Davis Burn Center, where he was listed in fair condition on Thursday.
"It was a terrible experience. One of those things that you never want to be near or involved in," Elvidge said.