Wichita man hopes to win lottery; lightning strikes instead

03/30/2012 5:00 AM

03/31/2012 12:21 AM

Like a lot of other Americans, Bill Isles bought Mega Millions lottery tickets on Thursday.

Later he joked with a friend that he had a better chance of getting struck by lightning than winning the record jackpot.

That night, Isles walked out into his backyard and got struck by lightning.

“It was like, flash, bang, instantly,” he said.

Isles, 48, wasn’t hit directly, but a jolt was strong enough to knock him face-first to the ground, start his muscles twitching, make his heart beat irregularly and scramble his thoughts.

Isles knows about lightning. He is a volunteer with Skywarn, a national organization of volunteers who provide local information about severe weather to the National Weather Service.

On Thursday night, as storms moved through the Wichita area, Isles decided to go outside at his duplex at 6320 E. Orme, southwest of Kellogg and Woodlawn, and contact some of his storm-spotting buddies in the field on his hand-held ham radio.

When he went outside about 9:30 p.m., the night looked harmless enough.

“It looked like things were far enough off to the north, and there were only just a few raindrops,” Isles said. “I would hear thunder, but I didn’t see anything close. I thought I was OK.”

He remembers talking to a couple of friends on his radio.

“One minute I’m sitting there talking, and the next minute I’m down on my face,” he said.

There was no warning, no feeling of an imminent electrical shock, no hair standing on end.

“They say drop, duck, crouch, cover your head,” Isles said. “There was just no time. It happened that fast.”

Lying on the ground, Isles saw the radio a few feet away. He crawled toward it, his muscles jerking, and started talking into it, telling whoever was out there that he thought he’d been hit by lightning.

He didn’t learn until later that Matt Mathia, of KAKE-TV, a fellow storm spotter, was among those who heard him on his radio and called 911.

Isles didn’t remember who he was talking with on the radio before the lightning hit.

Fire and emergency personnel who arrived at the scene found no sign of a direct strike on the property or on Isles. He suffered no burns. His radio wasn’t fried. A nearby transformer, the light over his garage and a bug zapper in the yard weren’t damaged.

Isles, who has been laid off from his job at a furniture store since June, was taken to Via Christi at St. Francis. Doctors found no muscle damage and his heart was OK. They released him early Friday afternoon.

People at the hospital joked with him about the odds of getting struck by lightning and the odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot.

Friday afternoon, Isles sent a friend out to buy another $10 worth of Mega Millions tickets.

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