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Sailor gets struck by lightning — and lives to tell about it

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Cris Corley, 55, was struck by lightning and lived to tell about it. (Photo: WSMV)

Cris Corley, 55, was struck by lightning and lived to tell about it. (Photo: WSMV)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Cris Corley, 55, is an avid sailor who’s lucky to be alive after being struck in the ear by lightning.

“The longer I laid there, the angrier I got,” Corley told WSMV. “Because I could not believe I was going to die from a lightning bolt.”

Corley said just 15 minutes after he set sail on Old Hickory Lake a few weeks ago, it began to rain.

“I brought down my sails,” he said. “And about that time, a bolt of lightning hit the mast of the bolt, traveled down, went into my right ear, right side, and exited through my small toe.”

Unable to breathe and paralyzed from head to toe, Corley was stuck on the lake in a thunderstorm. He said it took him half an hour to get back to dock.

“I thought it was over,” Corley said. “I had no doubt that this was it.”

The National Weather Service reports that 14 people have already died this year after being struck by lightning. They said fishermen and boaters make up nearly half of the water-related lightning deaths in this country.

While being struck is very rare. But it’s happened to Sheriff Terry Ashe three different times, each while doing farm work.

“When it hits like that, it’s like it almost takes all the oxygen out of the air,” Ashe said.

Injuries can range from serious burns to permanent brain damage.

While many don’t remember what happened, everyone feels the immense pain.

“They may have trouble hearing. They may have a ruptured ear drum. They may be dazed, confused. And unfortunately, they may be in cardiac arrest,” said Dr. Cory Slovis, chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Vanderbilt Medical Center.

Slovis said the safest places are inside a house or vehicle.

“You should go to the lowest, not highest, area possible,” Slovis said. “You should get away from single trees, away from metal, away from water. The metal and the water can conduct electricity.”

Until he recovers, Corley will be sharing his lessons from the dock.

“I’d say the good Lord was riding with me on that boat,” he said.