Brothers share story of surviving lightning strike

Posted at 9:40 AM, Oct 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-30 11:40:02-04

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    PHOENIX (KPHO/KTVK) — Two brothers got a pretty big shock during a recent hunting trip in the Arizona outdoors.

Thomas and Billy Hughes set up camp in late August on Mount Ord, just south of the Payson area. They were lifelong hunters, but this was the first time they were using metal tree stands. The brothers sat in their tree stands with their bows and waited for the right moment to take aim.

“There were deer everywhere. It was a beautiful day,” said Thomas. “Bright blue and some clouds. It was just perfect.”

They heard the rumble of thunder in the afternoon, but it didn’t seem close.

“We saw a storm coming in, really far away. You could hear some thunder,” said Thomas. “And we were texting each other the whole time. I was telling him, hey we gotta start thinking about getting going here soon. I’m thinking three or four hours, not minutes.”

The storm was much closer than the brothers realized.

“About 5:30 came around and the next thing I know I saw a white flash and the loudest sound I could hear,” said Billy. “I don’t know what happened, you know. I started trying to yell. I couldn’t yell. My voice was gone and my hearing was ringing.”

He was disoriented and it took him a while to find Thomas, who was knocked unconscious by the bolt.

“I woke up and I’m hanging in my tree stand. I’m just hanging there and I woke up kinda confused, like ‘what the heck just happened?'” said Thomas.

Billy called 9-1-1 and paramedics met them at the base of the mountain. Thomas checked out fine, except for pain in his right leg.

“My right leg hurt for probably four days,” said Thomas. “My right boot was destroyed a little bit on the bottom just from the current. For about four days, my equipment and clothes had a weird smell.” The brothers also both say they had a metallic taste in their mouths for a few days.

Thomas thinks lightning likely “chose” that tree because of his metal tree stand. But they still plan to use the stands again. They won’t, however, be hunting again during monsoon season.

“I think the safest thing is we’re not going to hunt during monsoon season,” said Thomas. “That opening part of bow season, gonna skip it. Not going to hunt that part. Too dangerous.”

Today, both brothers are in good health and have completely recovered. The lightning did destroy Thomas’ bow but Arizona Archery and PSE helped rebuild that for free. Thomas is grateful for that, and both brothers say they’re especially thankful for each other as well. “It brought us a lot closer together.”

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