Family’s lucky escape from lightning strike

THEY say that lightning never strikes the same place twice - and one Battle family certainly hopes the old saying is true after their house was hit by a lightning strike on Monday (August 8).

Ralph Collins was in his kitchen getting ready to go to bed in the early hours of the morning, when the lightning hit the roof of his home in Bowmans Drive.

Mr Collins, 57, said: “It was just after midnight and we were getting ready for bed and I was just getting the tea tray ready for the morning and that sort of thing.

“I just had my arm up to open the cupboard when there was an almighty bang and a blue flash went down my arm and the lights went out.”

Despite having suffered an electric shock, Mr Collins, along with his wife Carolyn, went upstairs to investigate.

They found the trapdoor had blown open and the loft was full of smoke.

Mr Collins said: “I poked my nose up and there was no obvious sign of fire, but there was very acrid smoke.

“I called the firebrigade. I was not going to hang about!”

A crew from Battle fire station were quickly on the scene, with many of them having already been woken up by the loud clap of thunder as the lightning struck.

One firefighter who attended the scene, who lives just off North Trade Road, told Mr Collins the noise had caused him to fall out of bed.

Crew Commander Leonardo Cacciatore said: “It was an almighty lightning strike and woke crews before we were called out.

“It was so loud I thought the world was going to end!

“Upon arrival, it was deemed the building was not on fire but the lightning had struck the roof, created two holes and blown some tiles and part of the roof and fittings away.

“We checked out the roof, where there was a lot of smoke but nothing alight.

“We let the smoke out and checked for any pockets of fire, using thermal imaging cameras.

“The lightning strike had blown out all the sockets and roof aerial.”

The lightning bolt had also blown plaster on to Mr and Mrs Collins’ bed.

Crew Commander Cacciatore added: “It was lucky the man wasn’t sleeping at the time.

“It was also lucky the roof didn’t catch light and was all out by the time we got there.”

Mr Collins, who was described by firefighters as ‘incredibly shaken’, was treated at the scene with oxygen before being taken to the Conquest Hospital as a precautionary measure.

The software engineer said: “I did get a bit of a shock up my arm, but it didn’t really hurt.

“The firemen thought I looked a bit flustered, so they got an ambulance to come over.

“I think I just needed somewhere quiet to sit to get over the bang.”

He was released from hospital shortly afterwards.

The Collins family have lived in Bowmans Drive for eight years.

The neighbours rallied round following the incident, with one offering Mr and Mrs Collins and their daughter Amy, who was home from university, a place to stay for the rest of the night.

Another neighbour has been busy making cups of tea for the family, who were left without electricity following the lightning strike.

Mr Collins said: “We have had lots of offers of help, but at the moment it’s just trying to get things organised.”

He added: “As always, the firemen and ambulance crew were marvellous and we are very grateful to them for all their help.”

Crew Commander Leo Cacciatore “I did say to the man that he was very unlucky as the chance of this happening is a bit like winning the lottery.

“All I would say to anyone is to always ensure your property is fully insured as there was a lot of damage to the property.”