Cory Davenport and Bob Strickley Telegraph staff reporters
June 21, 2014
ALTON — The storms that moved through the area Saturday evening literally rocked the boat and left one man needing treatment for a lightning strike while responders were assisting a boat that reported being under distress near the Alton Marina.
The Alton Fire Department responded to a call of a capsized boat at a little after 7 p.m. Saturday and found a boat under distress on the Mississippi River near the Marina.
Another boater, Kraig Hinson, witnessed the distressed boat and was attempting to assist the first responders from the docks of the marina when lightning struck nearby. Alton FD responders observed electricity from the lightning strike transfer through the railings of the dock Hinson was holding and through Hinson.
Meanwhile, in the marina’s office, Alton Marina General Manager/Operator Karen Baker-Brncic communicated with the distressed boat and kept the reportedly nine people on board calm.
“My 20 years as a flight attendant helped me keep her (the woman from the distressed boat) calm.” Baker-Brncic said after the situation was resolved. “To my knowledge, right now everyone is all right and safe in the harbor. The Alton Fire Department was excellent. They were here in no time.”
Hinson came into the marina office and received medical attention from the responders. He initially refused to be transported to the hospital, but told the Telegraph he would go on his own.
“I went down and tried to assist (the distressed boat) and I probably should have just stayed in my boat,” Hinson said.
Hinson described the sensation of the indirect lightning strike as, “the worst pain ever. It went through me and I felt dragged into it (the dock railing),”
Several firefighters from the Alton Fire Department were responding to the distressed boat at the time of the lightning strike and witnessed the electricity course through Hinson.
“I’ve had a boat here for five years and this is one of the worst storms I’ve seen,” Hinson said. “We just pulled in before the storm started. When the fire department came down, I was extremely worried for my friends. We had a hard time getting in.”
Before leaving the marina, Hinson received word that everyone on the distressed boat was safe.
Baker-Brncic said the distressed boat did not have a slip at the marina. The identities of the boaters were not immediately available.