Motorcyclist zapped on head by lightning on freeway at Chehalis

Thursday, September 5, 2013 at 10:33 am

The lightning strike victim talks with police and firefighters trying to arrange who he would allow to drive his motorcycle away before he would get back in to an ambulance.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 59-year-old Tenino man was struck by lightning this morning as he was traveling on his motorcycle up Interstate 5 at Chehalis.

A man and his wife who were behind him saw the flash and stopped to help.

“I was behind him in my truck, the lightning came down and lit up his helmet,” Martin Zapalac said.

At first Zapalac wondered if he imagined it, but then saw the motorcyclist lean forward and move to the shoulder.

The couple had the man follow him to the AM/PM off 13th Street, where arriving firefighters and paramedics checked him out.

It happened about 9:20 a.m., just north of the LaBree Road interchange.

Medics checked his vital signs and found he had some burns on the side of his head, although minor, according to the Chehalis Fire Department.

“He seemed to suffer some hearing damage as well,” Fire Capt. Kevin Curfman said.

The man was conscious and talking, and alert enough he got out of the ambulance to try to arrange who could drive his bike to a spot for safe keeping.

He was transported by ambulance to Providence Centralia Hospital.

Zapalac said the man’s hair was burned and the inside of his helmet was messed up, but he didn’t quite seem to understand how seriously he could be hurt.

He took off his helmet and asked, “Why am I parked by the side of the road,” Zapalac said.

“I’ve never seen it strike quite that close,” Zapalac said. “It was a good strike too, cause I felt the  concussion in my truck … when the thunder came.”


Motorcycle helmet is damaged where it was struck by a lightning bolt.

32 Responses to “Motorcyclist zapped on head by lightning on freeway at Chehalis”

  1. Not Gerald says:

    A priest, a rabbi, and an imam were playing golf. After a short putt that the priest missed, he shouted “Oh sh*t! I missed.” The imam looked at the priest and said, “You should not say such a thing. God will punish you.” At the next green the same thing happened, and the priest again shouted, “Oh sh*t. I missed!” The rabbi this time reprimanded the priest. “You should not say such a thing. God will punish you.” When the priest missed an easy putt at the next hole, he shouted the same thing for a third time. Just then, a bolt of lightening came down from the sky striking the priest’s caddie dead. A booming voice from the heavens was heard to say, “Oh sh*t. I missed.”

  2. W L S says:

    He would have to get hit by lightning 2 more times before he should buy a lotto ticket. They say the odds of getting hit by lightning twice is higher then it is to win the lottery.

  3. Research says:

    @Bob Simmons – all was good til the last line….

  4. Bob Simmons says:

    Who was that masked man, Daddy? Maybe I’m being picky, or don’t read well, but did anyone else notice a kind of important element missing from this story? Like, the guy’s name? We get the name of the good samaritan who was driving behind him, who saw the lightning strike, and the name of the fire captain who responded, but we don’t know who was hit.That is just too danged mysterious. Could it be that the mystery man will ride off into the sky, never to be seen again, once he gets his bearings? I hope so.

    OMG, I just got it. His name is Gerald Smeltzer.

  5. Randy says:

    Wow….I zoomed the pic of the helmet and saw that whatever insignia that adorned his helmet (Honda Gold Wings,maybe) was broken in half with the strike. That means the front screw that held it on what the conductor that drew the lightning bolt to him. What are the odds of that? I agree about him buying a lottery ticket, right after he remembers who he is. Just shows to go us, we need to embrace every minute we have on this earth. I’d say this gentleman was doing just that by riding a motorcycle in a lightning storm. Evil Kenevil, eat your heart out.

  6. I read some of these comments and wonder what kind of people there are out there. This rider was lucky he wasn’t killed. This could have been so much worse and there WAS someone watching over him at that point in time. Call it what you want, he was so very lucky

  7. theoldguy says:

    Our culture and our nation are being destroyed by the dehumanizing effect of video game violence and internet anonymity. Smeltzer is a posterchild for the latter.

  8. Cheryl says:

    Because his helmet appeared to have a headset (seen in other pictures on another news website), I think it likely that the helmet caused him the be hit by lightning rather that saved his life. The strike caused burns to the helmet near the headset and the antenna:

  9. Johnboy516 says:

    Lucky guy. Strangest thing I’ve every heard of. Glad He’s OK 🙂

  10. Did the helmet save his life or were the metal rivets in his helmet to blame for the strike?

  11. madfish says:

    Thought it was illegal to drive buzzed!!

  12. Reasonable thought says:

    Why do we thank “god”? Why not thank the manufacter of the helmet for saving this man’s life? Now that make sense

  13. pezhed says:

    Despite the please for attention, I am glad he’s okay!

  14. ELLIOT says:


  15. Brother Bob says:

    I’ll pay $20 for that helmet!

  16. Brother Bob says:

    I got $20 for his helmet !

  17. Gerald Smeltzer the Idiot says:

    My name is Gerald, I sit behind a keyboard and type the most idiotic comments that pop into my airhead. I have no life no friends and no soul. I hate myself so I take it out on others. My life sucks!

  18. FerrelMeme says:

    Well, that escalated quickly.

  19. Anvilal says:

    If that is what you call insight Gerald you must lead a really sad existence on this earth. Obviously you like to post stupid crap and I am not sure if that comes from your lack of “manhood” or if you are just a complete idiot, but you need to take that crap somewhere else cause no one here wants to read about your “insight”.

  20. Moderation is okay... says:

    Seriously, Sharyn, it is okay to delete comments like Gerald’s. No one will mind.

  21. Marty says:

    I wonder if he can fly or somethin’ now…

  22. Gerald Smeltzer says:

    Don’t question my insight, woman.

  23. Anvilal says:

    Isn’t it enough that this poor guy got struck by lighting, then to have some idiot like Gerald Smeltzer leave a comment like that. Wow to you sir. You have got to be one of the lowest scum of the earth lifeforms to sit there and call that man something like that. I seriously hope that something bad happens to you and some one says that you must have deserved it cause you were probably a child molester.

  24. Apalled says:

    Really Gerald??? This poor guy was riding around minding his own business and gets hit by lightning and what you get out of it is that he is “probably a child molester”. You obviously have issues that you should keep to yourself.

  25. Gerald Smeltzer says:

    The Almighty never fails to smite a sinner. This wahoo is probably a child molester.

  26. Ride the Lightning says:

    The driver was obviously in SHOCK..

  27. JK says:

    What a hair-raising experience.

  28. Lunarius says:

    Rhona.. If a God was with him today, it was Zeus, and he was ANGRY.

  29. Ridge says:

    That’s one very lucky man. He better buy a lottery ticket quick!

  30. dub-G says:

    I found it very en-lightning.

  31. Rhonda says:

    I say God was with this man today !

  32. J.Z. says:

    Shocking story. (Oh, come on, someone had to say it!)

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