Man struck by lightning, killed hiking the John Muir Trail

Small creek in Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains in California, along the John Muir Trail in Little Lakes Valley Heart Lake in Mono County.

FRESNO COUNTY, CA – Nicholas Torchia, a 37-year-old Fresno man, was pronounced deceased after being struck by lightning. This occurred around 2:00 pm on Friday, July 30th, in an area known as Sallie Keys Cutoff, which is near Muir Trail Ranch (east of Florence Lake).

Torchia was hiking on the John Muir Trail when thunderstorms quickly moved into the area. Torchia took cover by leaning against a tree, a tree which was then struck by a lightning bolt. Torchia fell to the ground. His fellow hikers came to check on him and he told them he didn’t feel well and then became unconscious.

A doctor and a nurse who were on the trail tended to Torchia by administering CPR for three hours. Despite their great efforts, he ultimately passed away. The incident was reported to the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office.

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Sheriff’s Search and Rescue (SAR) members constructed a plan to have air support respond to the area. However, due to weather conditions, it was unknown if a helicopter could be flown in. Around 6:00 pm, officers with the California Highway Patrol saw an opportunity to fly in with their helicopter, H40.

They successfully landed at Blayney Meadows, where hikers had transported Torchia’s body. CHP officers completed the recovery and flew Torchia to Fresno where he could be examined by personnel with the Coroner’s Office. Doctors ruled his death to be electrocution caused by lightning.