WATCH: Terrifying moment boat is hit by lightning off Florida

Seven people were rescued from a 39ft fishing boat in the Gulf of Mexico, after their boat was struck by lightning. The skipper of the boat, Glen Rumer, is sharing footage and details of his harrowing experience to highlight the importance of having proper safety equipment on board for every voyage.

The boat was located over 100 miles off the coast of Clearwater, Florida, when the lightning struck. The US Coast Guard was able to respond and save the seven onboard thanks to Rumer using his emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) to send a distress signal.

Moments prior to the lightning strike, Rumer warned local fishing charter captain, Joshua Guy, to remove his hands from a metal cup holder he was holding – a warning that almost certainly saved his life. Guy, who was on board with his 25-week pregnant partner, was knocked momentarily unconscious as the bolt of lightning struck the outriggers and travelled through to the transom motor.

“It was terrifying. I immediately noticed Josh had fallen to his knees and that we were dead in the water, Rumer says. “I instantly went into survival mode and called my sister Sherrie to get the EPIRB.” It was then that Rumer activated the ACR GlobalFix EPIRB, sending their GPS location via satellite signals to emergency services globally.

At this point, the boat was located over 100 miles off the coast of Clearwater, Florida, and was being thrown around by 6ft waves in torrential rain and relentless lightning. Approximately two hours after making the distress call, the US Coast Guard arrived by helicopter.

Rumer, who has 35 years of boating experience, acquired the EPIRB safety device eight years prior to needing it – initially purchasing it to allow him to fish further offshore with confidence.

Upon activation, Rumer instructed all passengers to head below deck with their lifejackets to protect them from the lightning storm, while he searched for signs of power. He checked the VHF radio and the breaker panel, but all to no avail before joining his fellow passengers below deck.

An EPIRB is a distress beacon used in the maritime environment to effectively take the ‘search’ out of ‘search and rescue.’ Once the device is activated, the EPIRB sends a unique SOS distress signal and GPS coordinates to the worldwide emergency satellite network. From here, the type of beacon can be identified, along with the owner’s details, vessel information, and emergency contacts.

The passengers were safely rescued by the US Coast Guard

Following their rescue, the survivors were shown the image that the US Coast Guard received when the EPIRB initiated the distress call. The boat had been in a purple zone, in the pinnacle of two storms and surrounded by 76 strikes of lightning. Despite being referred to as the ‘sunshine state’ Florida recorded more deaths from lightning strikes in 2021 than any other US state.

“The EPIRB saved our lives,” says Rumer. “There are so many people who lose their lives on the water because they are not prepared with the necessary equipment. EPIRB’s must be made a requirement on all boats. We wouldn’t be here without it.”

All survivors who activate their ACR EPIRB in a rescue receive a free replacement EPIRB for sharing their story through the award-winning ACR SurvivorClub initiative.

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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